Ju-jitsu. ©

Total inclusion '100 percent worth it' at the Riyadh 2023 World Combat Games Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, recently became one of the scenes of inclusivity. The Riyadh 2023 World Combat Games managed to unite, on one hand, fighters from the 16 martial arts and combat sports seeking champions with 60 special athletes with physical, intellectual, and visual impairments.

The Saudi city is, therefore, one of the pioneers in an initiative that seeks integrity and equality. The competition always aimed for the event's legacy to endure.

It was the first major sporting event in the world where conventional and Special athletes participate on the same stage, on the same national teams, and with the same goal: to lead a medals table where podium finishes from all disciplines count toward a unified team total.

The Para and Special athletes represent a total of 32 countries and come from as far away as Australia, Bolivia, Cameroon, and Uzbekistan. Some had sensory limitations; others used wheelchairs. "Just being here at the World Combat Games is amazing," said Rustin Hughes, a Ju-Jitsu athlete from the United States, who won the silver medal in the Men's Para Ne-Waza -85kg Handicapped event.

In addition to Ju-Jitsu, other sports featuring Para and Special disciplines at Riyadh 2023 are Aikido, Armwrestling, Muaythai, SAMBO, and Savate.

After qualifying for Riyadh 2023 with a fifth-place finish in June at the Asia-Oceania SAMBO Championships, being crowned World Combat Games champion felt like redemption for the Venezuelan. "This gold medal win made me realize that SAMBO is really a sport that opens up new horizons," he said. "SAMBO gives you the opportunity to feel alive: a normal life," he added.

The commitment to inclusivity, non-discrimination, and equality at Riyadh 2023 is one that was established by the organizers of this edition of the World Combat Games, mainly the local organizing committee, the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and the Saudi Ministry of Sport. It stems from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's ambitious Vision 2030, a government-led reform initiative aimed at producing a "vibrant society, thriving economy, and ambitious nation." Among its many objectives is the promotion of sports for all, which includes nationwide initiatives to provide life-changing support to people with disabilities. The resolution to include Para and Special athletes at Riyadh 2023 exemplifies the Kingdom's continued commitment to equality, while continuing to bolster its presence in global sporting events.