Saif Saeed Shaheen, making his Asian debut for his adopted country, Qatar, was humbled by Asian Games champion Rashid Ramzi in the 1500 metres on the second day of the 15th Asian Athletics Championships here today.
A late entry into the Qatar list, Shaheen opted for the metric mile and the 5000 metres here instead of the 3000m steeplechase at which he won Qatar's first ever gold in the World Championships in Paris. Having come through to the final in effortless fashion and having run 1200 metres of the race also without trouble, no one expected Shaheen to surrender so tamely to the Bahrain man, no mean runner himself.
Yet, the manner in which he slowed down the pace to a trot at the first bend of the last lap, after having clipped through the previous 200 metres at a hectic pace, baffled many, not least of all the Qatari camp. Ramzi won in 3:41.66, Shaheen had 3:42.79 and Japanese Fumikazu Kobayashi who took the bronze clocked 3:42.96.
The man who shifted his allegiance from Kenya to Qatar and changed his name from Stephen Cherono to Saif Shaheen, was not available for comments immediately after the race. For, there is no `mixed zone' here. The Qataris were perplexed that Shaheen could have made such an elementary mistake as slowing down into 80 metres of the final lap. No one could explain what the runner was indicating with his hands, whether by way of challenging the runners following him or whether asking someone else to keep pace with him.
The man who paced Shaheen through the first 1000 metres, Ali Abubaker Kamal, who eventually finished fourth, could just shake his head in disbelief in the end. Shaheen could only respond to the challenge by Kobayashi on the back straight after Ramzi joined him, but could do very little when the latter sped past him. The chase was not really on once the runners entered the straight, but Shaheen made sure that the Japanse will not pass him.
It was an otherwise excellent day for Qatar, with Khamis Seifeldin Abdullah and Ahamd Hassan Abdullah garnerning gold medals in the 3000m steeplechase and the 10,000 metres. Both won in style and with plenty to spare.
Like Shaheen, Hassan Abdullah, nee Albert Chepkurui, was also not expected initially to compete here. But he made it and made a mockery of the field in the hot and extremely humid conditions, in the 10,000 metres, clocking 28:45.64. He lapped all the runners in the fray on his way to a commanding victory, with Bahrain's Abdulhak Zakaria coming second at 30:04.13 and home favourite Eduardo Buenavista taking the bronze in 30:06.29.
In the long-awaited battle for the 400m supremacy among men, Fawzi Al-Shmmari of Kuwait won over Saudi Arabian Hamdan O. Al-Bishi. It was a stand-out performance by Al-Shmmari, just back from a 44.93 in Amnan at the Arab Championships.
Today's 45.16 paled in comparison, but Al-Shammari was elated. Doubts might have cropped up over his form after the World Championships where he clocked a poor 46.52 to Al-Bishi's season best 44.99s in the semifinals. As he crossed the line, the Kuwaiti pumped his fists and yelled. Behind him Al-Bishi had visibly tightened up and had to struggle at the finish. Japan's Yuki Yamaguchi took the bronze ahead of the more established Sugath Tillakeratne of Sri Lanka.
The sprints were pushed slightly to the background in the face of such intense contests and debatable results. Chen Haijian showed that his 10.17 at Shanghai just a week before coming here was really a true indicator of the form he was in. The Chinese clocked a 10.25s to win the men's 100 metres in a modest field. Kazakhstan's Gennadiy Chernovol and Saudi Arabian Salem Al-Yami filled up the other two slots on the podium.
The women's dash was won by Lyubov Perepelova. In the absence of Sri Lankan Susanthika Jayasinghe, the Uzbek was the natural favourite and obliged by winning in 11.43 seconds. Chinese Qin Wangping and Guzel Khubbieva of Uzbekistan were well and trly beaten, coming home in 11.56s and 11.57s.
Upset results marked three of the women's jumping competitions. The most surprising was in the pole vault where Asian record holder Gao Shuying failed thrice at 4.00 metres and finished fourth. Her Chinese team-mate Wu Sha took the gold with a clerance of 4.20 metres. Gao Shuying's continental record stands at 4.52 metres.
In the high jump, a new star was born. Vietnamese Bui Thi Nhung cleared 1.88 metres on her last attempt to edge Japanese Miyuki Aoyama in the race for the gold. Thailand's Noengrotai Chaipech won the bronze at 1.84, the same height that the Japanese cleared. The surprise elimination from the medals bracket was that of India's Bobby Aloysius. Silver winner in the last edition as well as the Busan Asian Games, with a personal best of 1.90 and a season best of 1.88m, Bobby Aloysius had started the favourite in today's competition but finished fourth, at 1.80, failing thrice at 1.84m. Kyrgyzstan's Tatiana Effimenko, the gold medallist at the last championships and the Asian Games, had not entered.
The women's long jump gold went to Uzbek Anastasiya Juravleva, the silver winner yesterday in the triple jump. It was tight contest with just three centimetres separating the gold and bronze. Chinese Li Shuyan just managed to cling onto her silver with a fifth-round jump of 6.51m, though home favourite Lerma Elmira Gabito came agonisingly close on her last jump, just one centimetre behind.
By an IAAF Correspondent
Results - Finals only – Day Two
100m: 1. Chen Haijian (Chn) 10.25s, 2. Gennadiy Chernovol (Kaz) 10.27s, 3. Salem Al-Yami (KSA) 10.28s.
400m: 1. Fawzi Al-Shammari (Kuw) 45.16s, 2. Hamdan O. Al-Bishi (KSA) 45.39s 3. Yuki Yamaguchi (Jpn) 46.18.
1500m: 1. Ramzi Rashid (Brn) 3:41.66, 2.Saif Saeed Shaheen (Qat) 3:42.79, 3. Fumikazu Kobayashi (Jpn) 3:42.96.
10,000m: 1. Ahmad Hassan Abdullah (Qat) 28:45.64, 2. Abdulhak Zakaria (Brn) 30:04.13, 3. Eduardo Buenavista (Phi) 30:06.29.
3000m steeplechase: 1. Khamis Seifeldin Abdullah (Qat) 8:51.60, 2. Wu Wen-Chien (Tpe) 8:55.38, 3. Yasunori Uchitomi (Jpn) 8:56.31.
110m hurdles: 1. Shi Dongpeng (Chn) 13.50s, 2. Park Tae-Kyong (Kor) 13.71s, 3. Wu Youjia (Chn) 13.80;
Hammer throw: 1. Ali Mohammed Al-Zankawi (Kuw) 70.62m, 2. Hiroaki Doi (Jpn) 70.11, 3. Dilshod Nazarov (Tjk) 69.90.
100m: 1. Lyubov Perepelova (Uzb) 11.43s, 2. Qin Wangping (Chn) 11.56s, 3. Guzel Khubbieva (Uzb) 11.57s.
400m: 1. Yin Yin Khine (Myr) 52.96s, 2. Bu Fangfang (Chn) 52.97s, 3. Svetlana Bodritskaya (Kaz) 53.19s.
1500m: 1. Tatiana Borisova (Kgz) 4:15.97, 2. Madhuri Singh (Ind) 4:17.87, 3. Svetlana Lukasheva (Kaz) 4:23.12.
100m hurdles: 1. Su Yiping (Chn) 13.09s, 2. Feng Yun (Chn) 13.25s, 3. Trecia Roberts (Tha) 13.29.
High jump: 1. Nhung Bui Thi (Vie) 1.88m, 2.Miyuki Aoyama (Jpn) 1.84, 3. Noengrothai Chaipetch (Tha) 1.84.
Pole vault: 1. Wu Sha (Chn) 4.20m, 2. Takayo Kondo (Jpn) 4.10, 3. Desi Margawati (Ina) 3.90m.
Long jump: 1. Anastasiya Juravleva (Uzb) 6.53m, 2. Liang Shuyan (Chn) 6.51, 3. Lerma Elmira Gabito (Phi) 6.50m.
Discus: 1. Li Yanfeng (Chn) 61.87m, 2. Neelam J. Singh (Ind) 58.64, 3. Xu Shaoyang (Chn) 58.13.
Heptathlon: 1. Irina Naumenko (Kaz) 5845 points, 2. Yuki Nakata (Jpn) 5723 points, 3. Shen Shengfei (Chn) 5633 points.