Omar Juma al Salfa claimed the UAE's first gold medal in 28 years of Arab Athletics Championship-participation last night, when he put together a winning performance in the 200m final. The 19-year-old, whose brother Bilal finished sixth in the same event, made his first senior medal a gold one and satisfied the high expectations that had been resting on his young shoulders. His success was even sweeter as he failed to make an impact on the 100m event earlier in the competition after he mis-timed his start.
"I was confident that he could do it," said the UAE Athletics Federation president, Ahmed al Kamali, of the World Championship qualifier. "He has won gold as a junior at Arab Championship-level and we were all hoping that he could step up to the higher standard at this competition." Al Salfa, who completed a well-deserved lap of honour with the UAE flag at the stadium in Damascus, Syria, can now expect a hero's welcome when he returns to the Emirates this evening.
"This is a great achievement for the country and something that we really needed," said al Kamali. "We had won two silver medals, one in the 4x100m relay and one in the triple jump, but we wanted more. "It's a landmark moment for the UAE in athletics and we are very proud. Omar will get a special reception when he gets home." Earlier in the day, Saoud Abdul Karim, finished fifth in the 400m hurdles and al Kamali was hopeful of a second relay medal as the UAE prepared to contest the 4x400m event.
"Watching Omar win was an unbelievable sight and is something he has worked very hard to achieve," added al Kamali. "We hope this is a foundation we can build on." @Email:email@example.com