Spotlight on the Qatari young guns as Asia’s best eye medals at Aspire

 19 Feb 2016 - 1:47

Spotlight on the Qatari young guns as Asia’s best eye medals at Aspire
Asian Athletics Association (AAA) and Qatar Athletics Federation (QAF) President Major General Dahlan Al Hamad (centre), flanked by Qatari sprinter Samuel Francis (right) and AAA Secretary-Treasurer Maurice R Nicholas, addresses a press conference on the eve of the opening day of Asian Indoor Athletics Championships in Doha yesterday. The event will conclude on Sunday.    

By Fawad Hussain      


DOHA: Young Qatari brigade headed by Olympics hero Mutaz Barshim will be under the spotlight at the 7th edition of the Asian Indoor Athletics Championships which get under way today at Doha’s iconic Aspire Dome.   
Over 300 athletes from 36 Asian countries will feature at the three-day event considered by many as a good test event ahead of next month’s World Indoor Athletics Championship in Portland and the 2016 Rio Olympics Games.      
The schedule of the event makes it more than just a continental contest as World Indoors in Portland is just a month away with Rio Olympics next in line.
Qatar’s young athletes, who have proved their mettle in major events, will be the centre of attraction at the three-day meet.  
High-jumper Barshim, who grabbed a bronze in London 2012, has already shown his form with a 2.34m clearance in Malmo, Sweden last month. 
The 24-year has promised to deliver his best in front of the home crowd.  
“It’s going be a tough event and I will try to give my best,” Barshim said. “An Olympic medal is huge and a gold is the main target there. This event will also help me prepare for it,” he said.
The Qatari star will be seen in action today with the high jump event slated to be held on the opening day. 
Popular Qatari sprinter Samuel Francis will also showcase his skills today, targeting his fourth 60m title after victories in 2008, 2010 and 2014. 
The 28-year old looked optimistic on the eve of the event. 
“I’m really psyched, and ready to go out run,” said the Qatari athlete on the sidelines of a pre-event press conference in Doha yesterday. 
 “I have that spark that lend me the medals in the past and I am confident of doing well in front of our own fans,” he said. 
The biggest threat to the veteran Francis, who has clocked 6.70 this season, will be team-mate Tosin Ogunode, who ran 6.50 in 2014 and 6.66 this season. 
Eric Shauwn Cray of The Philippines, who clocked 6.60 in Karlsruhe, Germany on February 5, will lead the challenge to break-up the host’s 1-2 ambitions.
Francis said he was ready for the challenge.
“I’m very healthy and my training’s been great. It should be a very good thing to come back and win it here again.”
Qatar’s top middle distance runner Musaeb Abdulrahman Balla will start as the overwhelming favourite in the 800m event which will also start today. 
The 26-year old Balla, who was fifth at the world championships in Beijing last summer, has a 1:46.79 run to his credit this season, nearly three seconds faster than any other Asian. The final will be competed on Sunday, the final day of the event. 
Also returning for the hosts in Mohamed Al Garni, who’ll defend both middle distance titles he claimed two years ago, both in straight finals against strong opponents from neighbouring Bahrain. 
Meanwhile, Asian Athletics Association (AAA) and Qatar Athletics Federation (QAF) President Major General Dahlan Al Hamad said Qatar was ready to deliver another athletics spectacle. 
“We at Qatar Athletes Federation feel very happy and proud to host for the second time this prestigious event in Doha. We are looking forward to experience three exciting days of elite athletics action,” the QAF chief said at a press conference. 
“Throughout the last decade, Qatar has gained valuable experience in hosting large-scale athletics events with a global impact, a mission that will be culminated with the hosting of the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships,” he added.
“I expect from many athletes to meet the qualification standards for the upcoming IAAF World Indoor Athletics Championships, the winter period’s flagship competition, which will follow in a few weeks time in Portland, USA,” said General Dahlan who was accompanied by Secretary-Treasurer Maurice R Nicholas and star Francis.
Also speaking at the press conference, Nicholas mentioned the notable progress the regional body has experienced in recent years which has helped foster the rising global stature of many of the region’s athletes.
“Why have we progressed? Because we have become professional in the way we organise our events,” Nicholas said. “And our coaches are professionals. We don’t do things like in the old days, on trial and error. Everything is from a professional approach.”

             The Peninsula