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Updated 5 November 2007
Mohammad Mutlak AL AZEMI, Kuwait (800m)
Born 16 June 1982, Al Kuwait; Married with 2 children
Club Al Kadissia ; Manager : Federico Rosa
Mohammad Al Azemi is a pure product of Kuwait athletics. Thanks to seriousness and dedication, he managed to overcome all the difficulties facing his preparation in a country that had been devastated by war.
Al Azemi started athletics in 1993. Dominating all his school mates during the physical education courses at Abdelmohssen Al Babteene school, he was rapidly spotted by athletics coach Abdellah Hnitem Al Azemi, who had him join the Al Kadissia club that he has never left. That same year, Al Azemi won the national cross-country championships in the under-14 ranks, which marked the beginning of the story.
Making his first outing abroad in 1995, at an international event organised by the Finnish federation, Al Azemi placed third in the 800m (2:26). The Kuwait federation judged that the youngster needed appropriate support and directed him to the care of another coach, Hamza Al Khiat, assisted by Nejm Mutlak, a former Kuwait champion.
Results were not long in coming. In 1998, still a youth, Al Azemi took part in the Arab Junior Championships, in Damascus, Syria, placing third ahead of supposedly better athletes from Algeria, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. The following year he achieved the standard for the first World Youth Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, and to the surprise of most, snatched the 800m bronze medal (1:51.24).
Three months later, the youth athlete flew to Singapore, to take part to the Asian Junior Championships. Thanks to the guidance of Al Khiat, he clinched the silver medal and established a Kuwait record of 1:49.53. He has since become a national hero and its flag bearer in international competitions.
In April 2000, Kuwait organised the Gulf Championships. With just a month and a half of serious training Al Azemi earned his country the 800m gold medal (1:53.46). But, in 2000, the year of his high school diploma, under the pressure from his parents and aiming to succeed in his exams, he had to give priority to his studies.
Shortly after the exams in September, Al Azemi kept a close eye on the Sydney Olympics and was fascinated by the victories of Germany’s Nils Schumann, in the men’s 800m, and Algeria’s Nouria Benida, in the women’s 1500m. With little preparation, he nevertheless managed to run 1:50.99, a season’s best, for 2nd place at the Pan Arab Junior Championships, in Damascus, in November. The sabbatical had quite affected him, though, and he needed several months to get back into the right tempo thanks to the support of his new coach, former Kuwait champion Khaled Khalifa.
In 2001, Al Azemi got close to his 1999 level, clocking 1:49.55 at the Doha meet, before clinching a bronze medal at the Asian Junior Championships, in Brunei, in July (1:52.46).
In 2002, he had health problems and did not train much. From time to time he has respiratory problems because of the dust in Kuwait. Bouts sometimes force him out of training. That is why, in the last two years, which marked a steep progression, he trained abroad the whole season.
In 2003, the federation decided to recruit a foreign specialist for middle-distance running and chose Algeria’s Abdelkarim Bensaid, then a coach for the Saudi middle-distance team. The pairing rapidly bore fruit. During winter, Al Azemi set the indoor Kuwait record at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham (1:50.41) and, in August, in Budapest, he lowered his national outdoor record to 1:47.44, moving closer to the world’s elite.
In 2004, following several months of preparation in Ifrane with Bensaid, he brilliantly snatched his selection for the Athens Olympic Games with an A standard of 1:45.25, achieved on 24 June in the Algiers international meet. His participation in Athens did not command much attention (7th in his heat, 1:47.67), but it proved a great learning experience.
In 2005, repeated injuries forced Al Azemi to take several breaks but he still managed to reach the semi-finals at the World Championships, in Helsinki, and to clock 1:46.67 at the Asian Championships, in Incheon, South Korea. In December he went through another change of coach as he decided to join the group of Somali-born Briton, Jama Aden Karain. From Oman to Morocco, he went to a number of training camps and made a strong season debut in Doha on 12 May 2006 (victory in a national record 1:44.80) beginning an impressive series as he lowered the national record twice more (1:44.59, Oslo, 2 June; 1:44.13, Athens, 3 July). It meant that he had lowered the national record three times in five races. The year ended with a flourish as he clinched the silver medal at the Asian Games, in Doha, on 11 December (1:46.25)
In 2007, Al Azemi again recorded a strong season’s debut, winning the Golden League meet in Oslo in 1:44.56. At the World Championships, in Osaka, he reached the semi-final in 1:45.85, but finished 8th in a poor 1:50.28.
Al Azemi’s success has turned him into a role model for Kuwait’s youth and motivated about 100 of them to join one of the 13 athletics clubs in this small country.
1999: 1:49.53; 2000: 1:50.99; 2001: 1:49.55; 2003: 1:47.44; 2004: 1:45.25; 2005: 1:46.67; 2006: 1:44.13; 2007: 1:44.55
800m: 1:44.13 (2007)
1500m: 3:42.75 (2006)
1998 3rd Pan Arab Junior Championships (1:53.1)
1999 3rd World Youth Championships (1:51.24)
1999 2nd Asian Junior Championships (1:49.53)
2000 1st Gulf Championships (1:53.46)
2000 2nd Pan Arab Junior Championships (1:50.99)
2001 3rd Asian Junior Championships (1:52.46)
2005 4th Islamic Solidarity Games (1:47.95)
2005 5th Asian Championships (1:46.67)
2005 sf World Championships (1:48.02)
2005 3rd Asian Indoor Games (1:52.40)
2006 2nd Asian Games (1:46.25)
2007 1st Asian Indoor Games (1:49.62)
Prepared by Tahar Righi for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright 2007 IAAF