x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Olympic qualification still possible for Emirati duo

Alia Mohammed Saeed and Bethlem Desalyn fall short in the women's 5,000 metres at Dubai Open but coach Belay Welash confident London 2012 dream can be a reality.

Alia Mohammed Saeed, right, and Bethlem Desalyn, both in white, did not have a good night in Dubai. Sammy Dallal / The National
Alia Mohammed Saeed, right, and Bethlem Desalyn, both in white, did not have a good night in Dubai. Sammy Dallal / The National

DUBAI // Alia Mohammed Saeed and Bethlem Desalyn's hopes of booking early ticket to the London Olympics failed to materialise last night when the two Emiratis finished outside the women's 5,000m qualification standards at the Dubai Open.

Saeed, who has a best of 15 minutes, 31.21 seconds in the event, could only manage 15:43.291 at the Dubai Police Officers' Club, while Desalyn finished a spot behind in 15:49.441, more than 13 seconds slower than her personal best.

Kenya's Beatrice Chepokoech won the race in 15:17.141, which was well inside the "A" qualifying standard of 15:20.00 for the London Games. Veronica Wanjiru (15:28.270), also of Kenya, and Ethiopia's Tiblet Hayu (15:29.617) finished second and third, inside the "B" qualifying standard of 15:30.00.

"I am not happy," Saeed said. "I have been training well and this is really disappointing. But we still have a few races, so I will be working even harder."

Belay Welash, who coaches the duo, was surprised by their performance last night, claiming they have been running times of 14:58 in training.

"They have been training really well, so I don't know why they did not do well here," he said. "They have run under 15 in training, so I really don't know why they were not able to do something similar here. Maybe there is some problem, I don't know."

Welash, however, is confident they will qualify for the London Olympics. "Maybe one more race and they will qualify … 100 per cent," he said.

The two girls will now return to their training base in Ethiopia, with 14 Diamond League events still available for them to qualify for the Games. The first Diamond League event will be held in Doha, Qatar, from May 1, but Welash is not sure of the two girls will be taking part there.

Larry Barthelow, the director of last night's event, urged the two girls to get over their disappointment and look ahead because there is still plenty of time before the qualification cut-off date of July 8.

"It's early," he said. "This is their first race. So you have to look at it that way. Sometimes it takes a couple of races. You have to get race sharp. It's like any sport, you have got to get sharp. Basically, it is their first time out of the gate. Yes, you wanted to go a little bit faster, but that's life and you go on.

"Beatrice and Veronica ran great. Veronica was world junior champion a few years ago. She is returning from a maternity break. So you are dealing at a whole different level here. You are dealing at the highest level. So the way I look at it, they competed, it didn't work out this time, you roll around and get ready for the next one. That's why we have races.

"I look at everything optimistically. I think you can't get too crazy over one race. It's a long season and July 8 is a long way away. You just go on and hope to find a couple of good races."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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