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How Andhra boy athlete won one million riyals, gold medal in first Saudi Games

Jeddah: The juvenile Andhra badminton player made a strong impact at the ongoing Saudi Games, the prestigious national games of oil rich Saudi Arabia known for its passion for football.

Mohammed Mehad Shah, a native of Nellore in Andhra Pradesh has won a gold medal and one million Riyals in the men’s single category in badminton competition as part of the first edition of the Saudi Games, the largest national sports event of its kind, took place on Friday at King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh in the presence of Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, Governor of the Riyadh region, as well as the Saudi public in a grand ceremony filled with lights, fire, and music.

Mehad Sha along with other winners were honored by Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Abdulaziz bin Musaed, vice president of the Saudi Olympic Committee and director of the Saudi Games. He was also greeted by Muqrin Al-Muqrin, chairman of the Saudi Badminton Federation, and Mai Obaid Al-Rasheed, vice president of the Saudi Badminton Federation.

Participants competing for a grand total of more than SR200 million: Gold-medal winners to receive SR1 million, and silver-medal winners awarded SR300,000 and SR100,000 respectively. This is the highest prize money dedicated to the sports sector in the history of the region.

The 17-years old native of Nellore district in Andhra Pradesh, who was born and brought up in Riyadh and a student of 11th class at New Middle East International School, has told this correspondent that his aim is to win medals for Saudi Arabia in Olympics and other international tournaments.

Mehad Shah said that the coaching which he takes at Gopichand Badminton Academy in Hyderabad is helpful to achieve success. Gopichand is known as Dronacharya of Indian Badminton. He also expressed his gratitude towards his school principal and PT and Tah, Ralf –both Philippine nationals- coaches who trained him.

Excited Mehad who performed Umrah along with his parents immediately after winning the Gold Medal also thanked his school sports director and trainers.

“When I was receiving the gold medal from Prince Fahd, I remember the days when I was struggling to find a partner to play with me in the badminton court”, he said.

He has been playing the game from 5th standard and his elder brother Faisal Sha also used to play the sport in Riyadh. Faisal is now pursuing medicine in India. Mehad’s sister Khateeja is also studying medicine back home in India. Mehad Sha’s parents, Shahid and Shakera Begum both are engineers.

Muzzamil Shaikh, coordinator of APNRT, AP state government body to look after NRI affairs in Saudi Arabia and noted social worker, has congratulated Mehad.

The only other Indian winner is Kadeeja Kothoor, who also won the gold medal and a million-riyal prize money in women’s single category of badminton. She is also 17 years old and studying in the same school as Mehad.

Kadeeja, native of Calicut in Kerala also born and brought up in Riyadh in a family of full badminton athletes. Sinmar Badminton Academy and Indian Academy- set up by a group of NRIs including her father Latheef – trained her. Coaches Sanjay, Shahin and Wahid shaped her gaming skills.

When she started playing at the age of eight years everyone was expecting that she would make a difference in the game one day which she did, said Latheef, father, who himself is a badminton player. Kadeeja’s other siblings are also badminton players. Her brother Mohammed Nzami is Kerala champion and 6th ranker in All India rating under 13 category; while sister Raya Fatima is Calicut’s St. Joseph Devagiri college team member of badminton team.

“My wife, Shanitha, has encouraged all children into sports” said Latheef.