x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE athletes want to add to 'positive cycle' at World Youth Championships

UAE youth athletes Khalifa Ibrahim and Hamad Jomai are now tasked with building on last week's record performance in India, writes Paul Radley.

Youth athletes from Kenya, the United States, Ukraine, Venezuela, Australia and Great Britain are just a few of the countries -- along with two UAE athletes -- that will be represented at the IAAF World Youth Championships, which starts Wednesday. Christopher Lee / Getty Images
Youth athletes from Kenya, the United States, Ukraine, Venezuela, Australia and Great Britain are just a few of the countries -- along with two UAE athletes -- that will be represented at the IAAF World Youth Championships, which starts Wednesday. Christopher Lee / Getty Images

Two of the UAE's brightest athletics prospects will look to maintain the spirit of optimism after the country's unprecedented success at the Asian Athletics Championships in India this week when they compete at the IAAF World Youth Championships.

Khalifa Ibrahim, a 17-year-old sprinter from Dubai, begins his challenge in Donetsk, Ukraine on Wednesday morning in the heats of the 400m.

Hamad Jomai, 16, from Dibba, has qualified to compete in the 10km race walk on Saturday.

Each of the UAE entrants at the global competition will be looking to imitate the success of their senior colleagues in India earlier this week.

UAE females won medals for the first time at a major athletics championship when Bethlem Desaleyn took gold in the 1,500m and 5,000m in Pune, after Alia Saeed had taken silver in the 5,000m.

According to Ahmed Al Kamali, the president of the UAE Athletics Federation, the success of the two distance runners in India has served to inspire all the other elite athletes in the country.

"It is not just Khalifa and Hamad but all our athletes are very excited at what Betty and Alia have done," Al Kamali said.

"I have spoken to some of our throwers who are currently training in Bulgaria and they have heard about it and are excited. Everyone is jumping to try to do something better.

"It is a positive cycle after these gold medals. Everybody is keen to do well and everybody is pushing very, very hard. Everything is moving forward."

Ibrahim, is particular, was able to feel the effects of Desaleyn's success at close quarters.

The Al Nasr sprinter travelled to India as part of the senior squad as the Athletics Federation sought to further his education ahead of bigger tests to come.

Having run 49.10 seconds earlier this year, Ibrahim was well inside the A-time qualifying standard of 49.95s stipulated for the World Youth Championships.

However, the powers that be are cautious about heaping expectations on the youngster.

"We hope he can go to the final but that is not going to easy as the standard of competition is very high," said Iliyan Pishtikov, Ibrahim's Bulgarian coach.

Al Kamali hopes the two Emirati competitors in Ukraine will be able to achieve personal best times, as they continue on what he hopes will be their pathway to the next Olympic Games in Brazil in three years time.

"We want this boys to learn and understand what international level competition is like," Al Kamali said.

"I am not expecting a medal from either of them, but I am look for good times.

"We want them to prepare this year for the World Youth, next year for the World Junior Championships in the United States, and then by 2016 we hope they will qualify for the Olympics."

Key UAE events at IAAF Youth World Championships
(in UAE time)

Wednesday
11.10am 400m heats

Thursday
6.25pm 400m semi-finals

Friday
Midday 200m heats
8.50pm 400m final

Saturday
11.25am 10,000m walk
6.45pm 200m semi-finals

Sunday
4.20pm 200m final

pradley@thenational.ae

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