Host Qatar’s new generation of promising and talented athletes, along with a junior 1500m runner from Djibouti, stole the show in the athletics events at the 12th Pan Arab Games which were held at the Khalifa Stadium in Doha from 15-20 December while Morocco was the most successful nation in the medal tally.
The 1500m race was definitely the “play of the Games” where three teenagers ran well inside the London Olympic Games A standard and thrilled the fans with a spectacular finish. It was Djibouti’s Hassan Ayanleh who finished first in 3:34.32 with an amazing sprint over the last 40 metres, followed by Qatar’s wunderkind, Hamza Driouch, who set the third fastest ever time in the youth category with 3:34.43. The bronze medal was awarded to another Qatari, the junior Mohamad Algarni, who also set a personal best 3:34.61 despite returning back to training only four months ago, after a lengthy absence due to injury.
Barshim a man for all conditions
Local rising star Mutaz Essa Barshim unexpectedly jumped 2.30m in chilly conditions to win the High Jump. He even tried once at 2.33m but left the job unfinished.
“It was a little cold and a medal ceremony was taking a long time so I decided to stop. Better to have gold and be safe than jump higher and be injured,” the World Junior champion said, adding that the final was like training for him, although he has never put the bar that high in training.
Barshim started high jumping this season in March and competed in every month since then except November. He never jumped lower than 2.20m and was declared Asian, Military, Gulf Countries, Arab and Pan-Arab Champion, while he finished seventh at the World Championships and lost the bronze medal on countback.
Bala beats Olympic medallist Ismail in 800m
Unlike Mutaz who was the clear favourite in the High Jump, 22-year-old Qatari Musaab Abdelrahman Bala caused a major surprise in the 800m when he defeated Sudan’s Olympic silver medallist, Ismail Ahmed Ismail, and beat the B qualifying standard for the Olympic Games with a time of 1:45.92. The 2010 Asian Games bronze medallist who trains in Jamal Aden’s group along with Abubaker Kaki had surgery this year and only returned to training in June.
Daegu World Championships finalist over one-lap, Femi Seun Ogunode, thrilled the spectators with his by a “hair-width” victory - as it was described by Omani Barakat Al Harthi - in the 100m. Al Harthi was officially announced as winner by the judges in a time of 10.37, the same as Ogunode and just one 1/100 sec ahead of third place Aziz Ouhadi from Morocco. But after further examination of the photo finish the result changed and the Nigeria-born Ogunode was awarded first place.
In the 200m Ouhadi avenged his loss and registered a convincing victory (20.69) ahead of Ogunode, who injured his back during the race and had to be carried off the track.
One-lap runners book tickets to London
Four more athletes met the B qualifying standard for the London Olympic. In the 400m, Yousef Ahmed Masrahi, who commented that he trained hard for these Games, finished in 45.44 and was followed by Oman’s Ahmed Al Marjibi who set a 45.84 pb and British-based Rabah Yousif from Sudan (45.87). Saudi Ahmed Khader Almuwallad will also have the chance to compete in London after finishing first in the 110m Hurdles in 13.60, just inside the B qualifying standard.
The 10,000m race gold was awarded to Bahrain’s Olympian Hasan Ali Mahboob who surprised even himself with his comfortable victory in 28:39.88, while in the steeplechase Qatar’s Olympic Games finalist Abubaker Ali Kamal kicked early and finished in 8:36.82 in front of Hamad Ezzine (8:38.87) and thus avenged his defeat by the Moroccan at the Arab Championships. On the last day of competition, Kamal beat his opponents in the 5000m as well with a personal best of 13:45.60 and stated that he will go for the double in the Olympic Games.
The Half Marathon which occurred in a specially designed course at the perimeter of the Aspire Zone was won by pre-race favourite Rachid Kisri from Morocco in 1:04:03.
Al Dosari found form on home soil
In the throwing events, Egypt won gold with Yasser Farag in Shot Put (19.44m) and in the Javelin with injury-hit this season (back and leg) Ahmed Abdelrahman (78.66m), who complained about the poor training grounds in Egypt.
Qatar prevailed in the Discus Throw thanks to the comeback of Olympic Games and World Championships finalist, Rashif Shafi Al Dosari (62.29m), who made only his third ever competition on home soil and Kuwait succeeded in the Hammer Throw, courtesy of Ali Zenkawi’s superiority (73.29m).
The only athlete who bagged three gold medals was Moroccan Malika Akkaoui. At first she smashed her personal best by 1.31sec to clinch the 400m title with a time of 53.94 and a couple of days later she proved to be a class of her own in the 800m when she finished in 2:02.42, more than four and half seconds ahead of Bahrain’s 1500m winner Genzeb Shumi, who set the pace in the first lap. In the end, Akkaoui added a third gold medal in her tally in the 4x400m along with the 100m hurdles winner Lamiae Lhabze, 400m hurdler gold medallist Hayat Lambarki and 800m bronze medallist Malika Abakil.
Ninth gold for Rahouli
Arab Games veteran, 32-year-old Baya Rahouli won a record ninth medal in the competition after an easy win in the Triple Jump with 14.01m. She didn’t even have to try her last three attempts to secure her third Arab Games Triple Jump gold, 14 years after her inaugural medal in Beirut.
Defending champion in both sprinting events, Gretta Taslakian from Lebanon, only managed to retain her title in the 200m (24.10). In the 100m, Iraq’s Danah Abdulrazzaq, who also won 200m silver and 400m bronze, forced Taslakian to defeat (11.88 to 11.96).
UAE’s Saeed controlled the pace in 5000m
Women’s long distance races were run at an extremely low pace. Alia Saeed from the UAE surprisingly won the 5000m in 16:11.54 and Bahrain’s Tejitu Daba Chalchissa the 10,000m with a time of 33:09.18. In the Half Marathon, another Bahraini, Lishan Dula, crossed the finish line first in 1:14:18.
The performance of the Games in throwing events was made by former-French and current Tunisian hammer thrower Sara Ben Saad (60.49m). The 24-year-old who trains in Paris under the guidance of Walter Ciofani, had competed for France as a junior but elected to transfer allegiance and represent her father’s country onwards.
After five days of action, Morocco topped the medal table with 11 gold, four silver and nine bronze medals, while hosts Qatar finished second with six gold, three silver and four bronze medals. In total 15 out of the 21 participating countries won at least a bronze. All members of the Arab League renewed their rendezvous for the next edition of the Arab Games in 2015 in Lebanon.
Vasileios Georgiotis for the IAAF