Two down, several more to go. Hopefully.
Qatar would be aiming to finish considerably higher than their current 20th place on the medals table after Abdalelah Haroun and Ashraf Elseify delivered a gold each in the 400m and hammer throw respectively at the Asian Games Sunday.
Sprinter Tosin Ogunode also joined the party with a silver in the 100m as Qatar finally got into the groove, eight days after the second-biggest multi-sport event in the world was formally declared open in the sprawling Indonesian capital.
Qatar's Ashraf Elseify celebrates after competing in the final of the men's hammer throw
Silver medallist Qatar's Tosin Ogunode, gold medallist China's Su Bingtiang and bronze medallist Japan's Ryota Yamagata celebrate during the victory ceremony for the men's 100m
Sunday’s haul took the country’s tally to five – Hamad al-Marri and Fares Ibrahim had earlier bagged a bronze and silver in shooting and weightlifting, respectively – and brought a sense of relief to the contingent that had been doing its best to hide its despair at not hearing the national anthem at medal ceremonies during the first week of the Games.
It was perhaps apt that the first gold came from Haroun, a humble, ever-smiling bloke who is yet to overcome his shyness while facing the media despite some pretty significant successes on the world stage.
Haroun is all of 21, but holds a promise that seems to be set in stone. If anything, Sunday’s victory only re-emphasised that. He was the favourite in the 400m at the Asian Games considering his recent exploits, and it was no surprised he lived up to the billing.
“I was always confident of success in the Asian Games as I had trained hard for the event. It was hot here, not that I have any complaints,” Haroun, a former junior world champion, said after clocking 44.89 seconds, ahead of India’s Yahiya Mohamed Anas (45.69) and Bahrain’s Ali Khamis (45.70).
“It’s a great honour to win the gold for Qatar, especially the first gold for the country at these Games. I hope it’s the start of many more to come in the remaining days of the event,” he added.
Also a bronze winner at the senior IAAF World Championships in London last year, Haroun had qualified for the final in Jakarta on Saturday with the third-best time 0f 45.83 seconds, behind India’s Anas (45.30) and Bahrain’s Abbas Abbas (45.59).
But running in lane three, he was quick to stamp his authority in the final, and by the time the race was past the 200m mark there was no doubt who the winner would be as he turned the tables on Anas and Abbas.
Haroun said his aim was to win the gold at the IAAF World Championships in Doha next year.
“Every athlete likes to excel in front of his own home crowd and that is what I am also aiming for. There’s still a year remaining for that but I will use all the intervening events to tune up for the big one in Qatar.”
A couple of hours later, it was the unheralded Tosin’s turn to shine as the 24-year-old pushed Chinese favourite Su Bingtian before settling for silver in the 100m with a time of 10 seconds in a close finish with Japan’s Ryota Yamagata, who was also credited with the same time.
Su timed 9.92 seconds for a new Games record, eclipsing Tosin’s older brother Femi’s mark of 9.93 set four years ago in Incheon.
"Time is not important. What is important is the victory,” the 28-year-old Su said. “A good start was the key and once I got that I was sure I couldn’t be beaten,” added Su, who twice ran the 100m under 10 seconds in June.
There was a disappointment for the spirited home crowd as Lalu Mohamed Zohri, the 18-year-old junior world champion, could only finish seventh despite a personal best of 10.20. The stadium throbbed with loud cheers from the Indonesians as the race began, but Zohri lagged behind from the start and faded out of contention.
Tosin was always wary of the huge expectations from him because he was hoping to follow in the footsteps of Femi, who had ruled the sprints in Incheon as well as in Guangzhou in 2010.
“My brother is a big star and I have learned a lot from him. He always gives me good advice, but most importantly he tells me to go out and do your best,” Tosin said.
Tosin has had his share of injury problems with the result that he missed several important events. In fact, the entry list for the 100m at the Asian Games had left the space for his personal best time blank.
“Ten seconds is pretty good but to be able to win the gold you have to go regularly under 10 seconds. That will be my aim going forward,” he added.
Elseify, meanwhile, was also basking in the glory of his success in the hammer throw after a best effort of 76.88 metres with his fifth attempt.
“It’s a culmination of several months of hard work. The main target now is the World Championships in Doha next year,” the 23-year-old said.
Dilshod Nazarov of Turkmenistan won the silver with a throw of 74.16m, while Sukhrob Khodjaev of Uzbekistan took bronze with 74.06m.
Qatar can add one more gold in athletics on Monday with Abderrahman Samba clocking the best time of 49.34 seconds in qualifying for the 400m hurdles final.
Dharun Ayyaswamy of India with 49.55 and Takatoshi Abe of Japan with 49.71 were second and third respectively.
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