Mohamed Salman AL KHUWAILIDI, Saudi Arabia (Long Jump)
Born 18 June, 1981, Al Dharan, Eastern Province; Residence: Safwa
Works for Saudi Aramco, the national oil company, like his father and brother (1 brother, 2 sisters)
Coach: Messaoud “Mahfoud” Bouhouche
Mohamed Salman Al Khuwailidi joined Safa Athletics Club, the leading club in Saudi Arabia, in 1995, aged 14, after trying various team sports without success. He had played basketball for a month, and withdrawn from football after just a week, quitting sports for six months as they were not to his liking. But then he discovered athletics after seeing friends from his neighbourhood going to the stadium and deciding to go with them.
The first two years were dedicated mostly to Pole Vault and Hurdles. Then he moved to the sprints (200/400m) before shifting his focus to the Long Jump after jumping 7.11 at the age of 17. Until 2006, the 200m would still also remain part of his training regimen as he had to represent his club over the distance.
In September 1998, Al Khuwailidi finished 2nd at the Arab Schools Championships, in Rabat, with a 7.32 jump. In 1999, he landed at 7.55 at the Gulf Junior Championships, in Kuwait City. However, his progression slowed when he opted to secure a professional career first.
In 2000, at 19, and having passed the recruiting exam to work for Saudi Aramco, the national oil company – one of the most coveted employers in the country – he immediately withdrew from university to join the two-year training programme in English and accountancy. But the 07:00 to 16:00 day in the office, and a 100km round-trip, left him with little time to train.
It was a 50km drive each way from Safwa, where he lives, to Dahran, where the two-year training took place, so he effectively stopped for two years. However, during that time he never doubted that he would return to a high competitive level.
In 2002, under coach Sahil Hamid, Al Khuwailidi started the season with a bang, winning the Gulf Championships with a wind-aided 8.18 in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, on 27 March. The performance earned him a training camp place in Europe, where he landed four times at 7.80 and above, with a peak at 7.91 in Rhede, Germany, on 21 June. He later got injured at the qualifying rounds of the Asian Championships, in Colombo, in August, and did not recover in time to be competitive at the Asian Games, in Busan, South Korea, two months later (7.32 for 9th).
In 2003 Saudi Arabia did not have a national Long Jump coach until the arrival of Zdzislaw Kokot, from Poland, midway into the year. Algeria’s Messaoud Bouhouche, the national coach for combined events, took charge of Al Khuwailidi in the meantime. The young jumper started his international season by winning the four meets of the Asian Grand Prix circuit (7.85, Hyderabad, 28 May; 7.96w, Colombo 1 June 1; 7.86, Bangkok, 5 June; 7.80, Manila, 9 June) before registering his first legal jump above 8m, in Hamburg, on 20 July (8.02).
The autumn was busy with no fewer than three championships in a month (4th, Arab Championships, Amman, 7.89w; 9th, Asian Championships, Manila, (7.63); 2nd, Gulf Championships, Kuwait (7.88). His fellow countryman, Hussein Taher Al Saba, won all three competitions.
The 2004 Athens Olympics were naturally in Al Khuwailidi’s sights but the Saudi athlete remained short of the A standard. Less than three weeks after his victory at the inaugural Asian Indoor Championships, in Tehran (7.94), he set a personal best of 8.12 in Qatif on 25 February but could not improve upon it later in the season. He set two other 8m marks (8.00 in Warsaw on 13 June and 8.04 in Biala Podlaska on 11 July) and ended the year with a silver medal at the Pan Arab Games, in Algiers, on 6 October (7.79, two centimetres behind Algeria’s Issam Nima).
At the end of 2004, former Romanian triple jumper Bedros Bedrosian (17.27 in 1984), who had already coached Al Saba at the end of the 1990s, was back on duty as national Long Jump coach. After a few months under his guidance, Al Khuwailidi suddenly burst into the limelight in April 2005 at the Islamic Solidarity Games, at home in Meccah, as he clinched gold setting a new Asian record (8.44, a 32cm improvement on his previous PB). Two weeks later he recorded another victory, at the Gulf Championships, in Manama (8.17), before his season was brought to a premature end by a hamstring injury sustained during a training camp in Romania, where temperatures were too cold for him.
After another change of coach, Al Khuwailidi went back to Bouhouche, who had been discharged of the combined events to take over the Long Jump. Another extraordinary jump brought his name back to the headlines on 2 July 2006 as he landed at 8.48 in Sotteville, France, which ranked him second to Irving Saladino in the 2006 World Top Lists and opened the doors to the major meetings. Competing among the world’s best, he finished in the top three at Golden League meetings in Zürich and Brussels (respectively 2nd with 8.34 and 3rd with 8.12), the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart (2nd with 8.34) and the World Cup in Athens (3rd with 8.11).
But it was at home that Al Khuwailidi encountered his biggest challenge. With three world level athletes for two spots, trials were organised in the lead-up to the Doha Asian Games. On 22 November, in Qatif, despite jumping 8.22 he was the one left out after a thrilling contest against Al Saba (8.25) and training mate Ahmed Faiz Bin Marzouq (8.22 and a better second jump).
An unexpected setback prevented Al Khuwailidi from carrying the momentum from 2006 into 2007. Saudi Aramco refused to grant him the special leave from work he had benefited from in previous years, thus affecting his training and the chance to compete abroad. He could not join the European circuit and had to limit his participation to regional events at weekends. He still managed to record some good results, winning the Gulf Military Championships, in April in Doha (8.23w), the Arab Championships, in Amman in May (7.95), and the Asian Championships, in Amman at the end of July (8.16w). But his preparation for the World Championships, in Osaka, where he went in his vacation, was more chaotic.
Without the chance to join coach Bouhouche and training partner Bin Marzouq in Germany, he had to train on his own under terrible weather conditions, on a 20 year-old runway that had almost become impracticable. There was no miracle in Japan and Al Khuwailidi was eliminated in the qualifying round with a 7.85 jump.
Putting the Osaka disappointment behind him, Al Khuwailidi then managed to get back into good physical shape, despite being able to train only once a day from 16:30 to 19.00 after his day’s work. He successively clinched two significant victories at area level, at the Pan Arab Games, in Cairo (8.19 on 21 November) and at the Asian Indoor Championships, in Doha, on 16 February, setting a new Asian indoor record of 8.24, the second best performance in the 2008 indoor season, behind Irving Saladino’s 8.42.
Tipped as a favourite for the 2008 World indoor Championships, in Valencia, following Saladino’s withdrawal due to injury, Al Khuwailidi arrived sick with pharyngitis. His warm-up on the eve of the qualifying rounds was his only training session of the week. Thanks mostly to willpower, he qualified for the Final in one jump (8.00). He didn’t feel much better on the day of the Final but managed to gather his last strengths to snatch the bronze with 8.01 and become the first Saudi to take a medal from a World Indoor Championships.
Just a month later, Al Khuwailidi sent a strong signal when he landed at 8.37 in his outdoor debut at the Saudi Club Championships, which ranked him fourth on the year’s IAAF Top Lists. His Beijing Olympics campaign then received a big boost as he eventually was granted a three-month leave from work by his employer. He thus could schedule a training camp in Leverkusen (Germany) from 20 June to 5 August and test himself in some of the major meets on the circuit (8.17 in Berlin, 8.23 in Villeneuve d’Ascq, 8.22 in Rome and 8.09 in Paris/Saint-Denis). Unfortunately the D- day brought a big disappointment as Al Khuwailidi failed to qualify for the Olympic Final, finishing 1 cm behind the last qualifier. The season ended on a better note with a 3rd place at the World Athletics Final (8.04).
His preparation for the 2009 season encountered some delay because of the ongoing difficulty for Al Khuwailidi to benefit from leave from his employer Aramco and his wedding in April. Serious training didn’t start before May but the Saudi had to face another setback after he injured his ankle at his first attempt at the Berlin Golden League meet on June 14. Al Khuwailidi has been training in Leverkusen since July 2 and expects to be competitive again in Berlin.
Long Jump: 8.48 (2006, Asian record)/8.24i (2008, Asian indoor record)
200m: 21.09 (2003)
2002: 7.91/8.18w; 2003: 8.02; 2004: 8.12; 2005: 8.44; 2006: 8.48; 2007: 8.25; 2008: 8.37; 2009:7.57m
2002 1st Gulf Championships (8.01)
2002 9th Asian Games (7.32)
2003 4th Arab Championships (7.89w)
2003 9th Asian Championships (7.63)
2003 2nd Gulf Championships (7.88)
2004 2nd Pan Arab Games (7.79)
2005 1st Islamic Solidarity Games (8.44)
2005 1st Gulf Championships (8.17)
2006 2nd World Athletics Final (8.34)
2006 3rd World Cup (8.11)
2007 1st Arab Championships (7.95)
2007 1st Asian Championships (8.16w)
2007 1st Pan Arab Games (8.19)
2008 1st Asian Indoor Championships (8.24)
2008 3rd World Indoor Championships (8.01)
Prepared by Carole Fuchs for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2007-2009.