BAHRAINI athletes continued their medal quest at the 18th Asian Games yesterday with renewed grit and gumption as day four of the athletic events yielded another couple of gold and bronze medals to swell the kingdom’s haul to 16 – eight gold, three silver and five bronze.
Bahrain are just three medals away from their best performance of 19 medals – nine gold, six silver and four bronze – at Incheon, South Korea four years ago.
Befkadu Kalkidan raced in splendid isolation in the last couple of laps to claim the gold in the women’s 5,000m while compatriot Rebitu Bontu had to settle for bronze with Daria Maslova of Krygystan splitting the Bahrain pair to bag the silver.
Later, Bahrain underlined their sprinting supremacy claiming the gold in the inaugural mixed 4x400 metres relay. Bahrain’s two men and women led the event right through and beat India comfortably while Kazakhstan bagged the bronze.
The 4x400m mixed relay will make its global debut at the world championships in Doha next year before its Olympic bow in Tokyo in 2020.
Abbas Abbas, the 100m semi-finalist, ran the last leg of the relay as Bahrain clocked three minutes 11.89 seconds.
Ali Khamis, the 400m bronze medallist, started the opening leg in style and gave Bahrain a slender edge as he passed on the baton to 400m hurdles gold medallist Oluwakemi Adekoya who in turn used her one-lap running experience fully and extended the lead before handing over the baton to Salwa Naser.
Naser took off from where she had left off after winning the 400m gold just two days ago to make sure the gold was in the bag for Bahrain before handing over the baton to Abbas, who had the home stretch all to himself to complete the golden run.
The victory gave Adekoya and Naser their second gold of the games and Khamis his second medal following his bronze in the 400m.
“It means something great, something special. It is the first time we make national record, Asian record and I think world record too,” Abbas told reporters.
“We are the first team to win this event. We are two girls and two boys so it’s difficult. We are used to four boys.”
In 5,000m, Kalkidan and Bontu decided to up the pace after the first couple of sluggish laps. They stayed ahead for the next few laps and at the half way stage Kalkidan made her move and split from a group of four runners.
The 27-year-old kept extending the lead and was clearly at least 150m ahead of a tiring Bontu and a resilient Maslova, who in turn kept surging ahead of the second Bahraini.
In the end, Kalkidan won the race in 15:08.08 minutes, more than 22 seconds ahead of Maslova (15:30.57) while Rebitu had enough energy to cross the line third (15:36.78).
Bahrain’s second bronze yesterday was claimed by Manal Elbahraoui in the women’s 800m which was won by China’s Wang Chunyu who beat two-time defending Asian Games champion Margarita Mukasheva of Kazakhstan.