Dubai — It was an improvement on the 2013 performance for the UAE with the same stars claiming honours in the 21st Asian Athletics Championships in Wuhan, China during the weekend.
Alia Saeed Mohammad and Bethlem Desalegn this time brought home in their baggage (3 golds and one silver) in comparison to the three (2 silver and one silver) earned in pouring rain in the Indian city of Pune in July two years ago.
The golden girls of UAE athletics who train in Ethiopia, their original place of birth and in Europe before embarking on trips for major meets are due back home shortly after the customary chilling period in the UAE. Alia retained her 10,000km gold, this time with a meet record while Bethlem got the grand
Alia retained her 10,000km gold, this time with a meet record while Bethlem got the grand doube winning the 1,500m and 5000m golds with Alia coming second in the 5,000m.
By virtue of this show Alia and Bethlem qualified for the IAAF World in Beijing in August.
The UAE finished a creditable sixth in the overall medal standings — in sixth place behind China (15 gold/13 silver/13 bronze for a total of 41 medals); Qatar (7/2/1/10); India (4/5/4/13); Japan (4/3/11/18); and Bahrain (3/3/2/8) in the order.
Alia crossed the finish line in 31 minutes 52.29 seconds in the 10,000m to nudge past Bahrain’s Eunice Chumba (32:22.29) and Japan’s Numata Michi (32:44.57) on Sunday with the same consistency that has been the hallmark of the 24-year-old UAE ace’s international career. In the 2014 Incheon Asian Games Alia returned a personal best of 31.51.86 for gold.
Chumba and Michi were the only ones anywhere close to make a challenge of the race and they had to finally be satisfied with the silver and bronze.
“These girls have been training hard since the past few months and I am pleased that both have been able to book their tickets for Beijing in August,” Ahmad Al Kamali, head of the UAE Athletics Federation and IAAF council member told media here.
Ambitious as he is, Kamali, who helped spot the golden girls at a young age, said the federation and the country were looking forward to the Rio Olympics for more glory and a perhaps a historic first ever athletics medal.
Bethlem won the 1,500m in Wuhan two days earlier and immediately on day four and made it a UAE 1-2 along with Alia in the 5,000m.