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Iraqi archers back in world competition
July 13, 2003 15:54 IST
The first Iraqi athletes to visit the United States since the fall of Saddam Hussein, a team of seven archers, said on Saturday they had little hope of outshooting the competition but called the trip a dream come true.
The team of four men and three women archers, who arrived in New York late on Friday night, will compete in the week-long World Archery Championships that begin on Monday.
"It was a dream for me to participate in this international championship," one of the archers, Afrah Abas, 34, told a news conference through a translator.
The Iraqis and the U.S. and Olympic officials who helped arrange the visit evaded questions about the war launched by the United States and Britain in March to oust Saddam.
"While the Iraqi archers are here they are going to be receiving a great deal of training," said Patricia Harrison, assistant U.S. secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.
"Americans are also going to benefit greatly from meeting them, from learning about their culture, connecting to them as people," Harrison said.
Archer Mohammad Fayadh, 35, said the team did not know how they would measure up to the competition, which includes 580 archers from 80 countries.
"For the last eight to nine months we were not able to have suitable training facilities, but it is a good opportunity to grow," he said.
"It was not easy to find the time for training. And also you know about the circumstances in Baghdad. No transportation, fuel and communication. So it was for us very difficult to get reasonable training."
The group has been invited by the State Department to visit the U.S. archery training facility in Chulla Vista, California, and to attend the national archery championships in Reading, Pennsylvania at the end of July.