Kuwaitis taking part in the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games expressed pride at representing their country competitively once more after the lifting of a three-year ban by the International Olympic Committee.
Describing his emotions on leading team Kuwait as the nation's flag-bearer at the event's opening ceremony, discus thrower Eissa Zankawi said it was an "indescribable" feeling.
"I got goosebumps and felt proud of being a Kuwaiti. I was the one to have raised the flag of my dear country, particularly after a suspension of several years was lifted," said the 2015 Asian Championship silver-medalist.
The 25-year-old, who was selected for the role by the Kuwait Olympic Committee, said "it was an honour for me as it would be for any other athlete. It was a chance to express my sincerity and devotion to my country and this is a moment which I will remember fondly." The son of an Asian champion shot putter, Mohammad Zankawi, who was Kuwait's flag-bearer at the Bangkok Asian Games of 1978, said he would speak of the great honour to his own children one day.
The world sports governing body, IOC, decided to provisionally lift a ban on Kuwait's competitive sports participation just two days before the start of the Games, citing "progress accomplished" by the country's sports officials.
Zankawi had little time to prepare for the event and was called on short notice as were others. "Some of the athletes did not know they would be participating in the competition," he added.
Ali Al-Taweel, a 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games bronze-medalist in Kurash, a wrestling genre originating from Central Asia which has been newly-introduced to the Asian Games, said he aims to make an "unprecedented achievement" for Kuwait.
Alongside Mohammad Dashti (Under 66kgs) and Hussein Masri (Over 100kg), the 24-year-old, who represents Kuwait in the Under 90kg category, said the medal he clinched in Ashgabat on his competitive debut did much for the popularity of the sport in Kuwait.
Altogether, some 40 Kuwaitis are taking part in Jakarta. They include three-time Asian Games gold medalist and 74th seeded shooter Khaled Al-Mudaf and equestrian showjumping's World Cup Arab League bronze-medalist Ali Al-Khorafi.
By Abdallah Bogus
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