Gaza Paralympian: Nothing is impossible
Published Wednesday 06/06/2012 (updated) 14/06/2012 09:26
Khamis Zakout, with the numerous medals he has won throughout his
career as a wheelchair athlete. (MaanImages/PCHR/HO)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Despite having no formal training, Khamis Zakout, a wheelchair athlete from the Gaza Strip, will be representing Palestine at the London 2012 Paralympics.
Unlike other athletes outside Gaza, Zakout told the Palestinian Center for Human Rights that he receives no financial reward for his vocation. He buys his own uniform, shoes, and sports wheelchair and trains in a public park in Gaza City.
"I have no professional advice on particular training techniques or specific diets for my athletic condition. Even if I had, I would rather provide my family with adequate food, than find for myself the special vitamins I need."
Zakout, 47, says moral strength "is worth the best equipment and training in the world."
In May, the British Consulate in Ramallah invited Zakout and his fellow athletes to Jerusalem to mark the 100-day countdown to the Paralympics.
"The objective of the visit was to get psychological support and moral strength to prepare for the Olympic Games, and I also wanted to show other disabled Palestinians that it is possible to succeed, achieve and live a healthy life, despite physical impairment," Zakout says.
"I wanted to prove to all people that Palestinians are strong, that they have will and are persistent through their hardships. Disability only lies in the mind, not in the body. Hence, we are not disabled, and nothing is impossible."
But Zakout was unable to attend the event because Israeli forces refused to let him enter at the Erez crossing on Gaza's border, citing security concerns.
The athlete, who has never been detained in Israel, says he cannot think of any reason for the refusal. He has frequently traveled abroad for competitions, winning two gold medals for javelin and shot put at an international championship in Dubai in December.
Israeli authorities had provided Zakout's wheelchair as compensation after he was left paralyzed in a construction accident at work in Israel in 1992.
"They deny us entry, but we are disabled and cannot fire at Israel. We just want to participate in sport activities," Zakout says.
"Their goal is to break our moral, because they cannot accept the potential success of Palestinians."
Zakout hopes he will be able to travel to London as the head of the Palestinian team has overseen official arrangements for the trip, but notes: "here, promises are rarely realized."