NYU Abu Dhabi Athletics and Special Olympics UAE Launch Virtual Fitness Support Program

NYUAD Class of 2023 student Salma Abdelaziz with Special Olympics athlete Nour El Akhdar

Press Release

NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Athletics has launched Virtual Unified Partners, a virtual fitness support program, in cooperation with Special Olympics UAE. As part of the program, NYUAD student athletes will hold two sessions per week to train virtually with Special Olympics athletes.

The initiative is designed to assist Special Olympics athletes without pre-existing support platforms to stay engaged in sports activities and continue being active while staying home.


 “This pioneering program continues NYUAD’s partnership with the Special Olympics and builds on the legacy of the Special Olympics World Games hosted by Abu Dhabi in 2019. The coronavirus cannot derail our mission to promote opportunities and social inclusion for these remarkable athletes.”

Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Athletics at NYUAD Peter Dicce

The pilot program kicked off with 16 NYUAD students signing up to train with 17 Special Olympics athletes aged between nine and 32, with an aim of providing support and building relationships between NYUAD student athletes and Special Olympics athletes. The program will also provide NYUAD athletes with an opportunity to engage with people of determination and serve the community during this challenging time.

"We are pleased to cooperate with NYU Abu Dhabi on this program and many other programs to unified teams that are seeking to achieve a unified goal; effective and complete social inclusion. We are grateful for the University and students' response towards the current situation and work with us to come up with the ‘Unified Partners’ program that created a strong link among students in the University and our athletes from people of determination and intellectual challenges."

Talal Al Hashemi, National Director of Special Olympics UAE

NYUAD Class of 2023 student who is majoring in Filmmaking and Social Research and Public Policy, Salma Abdelaziz, described her experience with Special Olympics athlete Nour El Akhdar, saying: "I am very grateful for the opportunity provided through NYUAD Athletics to volunteer with the Special Olympics. I wouldn't exchange the bond that I built with Nour for anything else in the world. In our Zumba work-out sessions, Nour's dance movements are always on point; she would definitely be a better instructor than me!"

The students will design each of the workout sessions and will be assisted by NYUAD Athletics coaches to ensure they provide tailored fitness activities for each participant. The sessions will be conducted via video-conferencing, allowing each individual to remain home while completing the sessions.

"NYU Abu Dhabi students have undergone training sessions with the Special Olympics athletes before the program, which is being continued inline with the remote training and learning practices. Throughout the program, we will ensure to collect data and information to establish best practices and develop unified virtual programs for the future."

Khawla Barley, Initiatives Development Supervisor at Special Olympics UAE

This initiative comes as part of NYUAD Athletics' commitment to supporting the community by promoting fitness and physical activity as well as fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion within the NYUAD community and beyond.

NYUAD campus has previously hosted the Athletics, Powerlifting, Mobile Athletes Training Program (MATP), and Global Youth Summit events during the March 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games and served as the venue for Athletics, Powerlifting, MATP, and Swimming events which took place during the March 2018 MENA Special Olympics Games.

About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective undergraduate curriculum across the disciplines with a world center for advanced research and scholarship. The university enables its students in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and arts to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from over 115 countries and speak over 115 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.