x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Asian Athletics Championships: Bethlem Desaleyn could run UAE to big day

The UAE team is looking to a golden finish for Bethlem Desaleyn as she competes in the 1,500-metre run at the Asian Athletics Championships.

China's Su Bingtian, leftm crosses the finish line to win gold ahead of Qatar's Samuel Adelebari Francis (R) in second and a lunging Barakat Al Harthi of Oman, centre.
China's Su Bingtian, leftm crosses the finish line to win gold ahead of Qatar's Samuel Adelebari Francis (R) in second and a lunging Barakat Al Harthi of Oman, centre.

Ahmed Al Kamali, the president of the Athletics Federation, said today could be a golden day for the sport in the UAE as Bethlem Desaleyn seeks to better the performance of her training partner at the Asian athletics championships.

Alia Saeed got the UAE's campaign off to a fine start on Wednesday evening when she took silver in the 10,000 metre at Pune, India.

The 22-year-old runner's second-place finish meant the UAE were placed sixth on the medals table at the end of the first day of competition.

It has also served to inspire Desaleyn, her close friend and colleague from her training base in Ethiopia, as she pursues the 1,500m title Friday evening.

"[Today] could be a big, big day for our athletics federation as we hope there will be more medals," said Al Kamali, who was a former distance runner of some repute himself.

"It is a big day for us and we are expecting good results. Betty has a good chance of being on the podium with a gold. It is possible.

"I had a meeting with them at breakfast this morning and you could see the effect. Between the two girls, Betty always feels that she has to do better than Alia."

Saeed's silver medal was an unexpected bonus for the national team, given that Desaleyn was widely regarded as the country's best hope for a medal heading to India.

Her biggest threat in this evening's 1,500m final is likely to be Mimi Belete, a Bahraini athlete who formerly competed for Ethiopia.

Belete's season's best time of 4:04.81min is the fastest of any of the athletes who will take the start line, but only 0.5sec better than Desaleyn has managed.

"I think it will be a very tactical race and if Betty decides to go the Bahrain girl will be following her," Al Kamali said.

Saood Abdulkarim finished seventh in the men's 400m final in a time of 47.15sec, a run that Al Kamali hopes will serve him well when he comes to compete in the hurdles over the same distance.

Abdulkarim's young clubmate at Al Nasr, Khalifa Ibrahim, was not risked in the 400m but is expected to run in the 200m.

Ibrahim, 16, has been taken to India as part of the five-person national team for two main reasons.

Primarily it is to ensure he maintains his training schedule as he shares the same coach as Abdulkarim.

The Athletics Federation also want him to sample to sample the atmosphere of a major international competition before he competes at the World Youth Championships in Ukraine later this month.

Elsewhere, China's Su Bingtian and Wei Yongli emerged the fastest runners at the championships in Pune with emphatic wins in Thursday.

Su retained the men's title he won two years ago, finishing in 10.17 seconds in the men's 100m final, slower than the 10.06 he ran at Beijing in May. But his effort was enough to keep him ahead of Asian record-holder and favourite Samuel Francis of Qatar, who was second in 10.27 seconds. Barakat Al Harthi of Oman picked up the bronze with a time of 10.30 seconds.

Su and Francis were the chief contenders for the title after Japan's teenage sprint sensation Yoshihide Kiryu, who clocked a junior world record equalling time of 10.01 seconds in April, opted to skip the meet.

Wei cruised to victory in the women's 100m final, finishing the race in 11.29 seconds after a false start had disqualified Komalam Shally of Malaysia.

Gold medallists at the Asian meet, which ends on Sunday, are guaranteed a direct entry into next month's world championships in Moscow.


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