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'They can keep dreaming': Gaza Sunbirds aim to offer hope for future of Para cycling in region

When we think of training for the Paralympics, there are so many important pieces required in order to ensure that the athletes journey is as smooth as possible.

Equipment needs to be adapted, travel arrangements need to be confirmed and of course routines (nutritional, physical therapy) during training are imperative.

Imagine trying to keep your dream alive amidst massive displacement, death, trauma, facilities and equipment being decimated and your family and community fleeing from bombs falling. These are some of the things the Gaza Sunbirds have had to endure.

Since Oct. 7, 2023, when Hamas attacked an Israeli compound and killed 1,200 people, the Israeli army's response on Gaza has been relentless. According to Reuters, the death toll of Palestinians, relief workers and others has exceeded 35,000 and displaced more than 2.5 million people in the Gaza Strip.

While sports may not seem like a priority in a war zone, for many athletes and Para athletes, keeping their dreams alive is imperative. As a part of the global sports community, people all around the world find connection and happiness in sports and Palestinians are no exception. Palestine is recognized by the International Paralympics Committee and has participated in every Games since 2000.

Sports can be about anything from intense competition to mental perseverance, and it can even be about basic survival. Survival through sport is exactly what the Gaza Sunbirds are doing — keeping their Para sports dreams from turning into rubble.

In 2018, cyclist Alaa al-Dali was training to compete in the Asian Games. During one of the weekly demonstrations of The Great March of Return, he was watching the protests when a bullet from an Israeli sniper hit his leg and