BAHRAIN signed off in style last night winning seven more medals on the last day of the athletic events at the 18th Asian Games.
On the biggest and richest day in their sporting history, Bahrain won three gold, three silver and one bronze for their largest haul of 25 medals – 12 gold, six silver, seven bronze.
Bahrain shared the top spot in the athletics medal table with China – 12 gold each. Bahrain also easily beat their previous best of 19 medals – nine gold, six silver and four bronze – at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea four years ago.
The Bahrainis were 10th on the overall medal table, way ahead of all other GCC countries feature on it.
Qatar are 14th (5-4-3-12), the UAE 18th (3-6-4-13), Kuwait 21st (3-1-2-6) and South Arabia 25th (1-2-3-6).
There were multiple heroes on the last day of the athletic events as Edidiong Odiong and Salwa Eid Naser emerged as the most successful athletes with three gold and a silver each after winning the 4x100m relay and finishing second in the 4x400m relay yesterday while Befkadu Kalkidan completed a golden double adding the women’s 1,500m title to the 5,000m crown she had won earlier in the week.
Bahrain also had a double 1-2 as Tigist Belay finished second behind her training partner Kalkidan in the 1,500 and later Birhanu Balew, who added the 12th and final gold in the men’s 5,000m, led Albert Rop in the men’s 5,000 for another 1-2.
Odiong completed a golden sprint double on Wednesday and Naser had earlier won gold in the 400m and the 4x400m mixed relay.
Bahrain’s lone bronze yesterday was won by Mohammed Tiouali in the men’s 1,500 metres.
“Today was very hard, because she’s (Belay) my friend – today I’m fighting with her. But we make each other better,” she said.
But Bahrain’s own ‘Spice Girls of Sprints’ were clearly the toast of a nation yesterday as Naser led the women’s 4x100 relay team to a thrilling victory with a new Games record time of 42.73.
Bahrain trailed China by more than five metres on the home stretch as Naser took over the baton from Hajar Alkhaldi. But the 400m champion, this time minus her silver deadlocks, was unperturbed.
Switching the baton to her right hand, she went in hot pursuit of the Chinese girl, caught up with her with about 10 metres to go and then dug deep into her reserves of energy before unleashing a giant leap at the finish line to pip her rival for gold.
A deafening victory cry matched the effort with the Chinese looking on helplessly as Bahrain robbed them of gold and glory.
Iman Essa and Odiong ran the first and second laps behind the Chinese while Alkhaldi, running the third, had closed the gap with the Chinese.
Less than two hours later, the ‘Spice Girls’ were back on track for the 4x400m relay, this time Aminat Jamal coming in place of Alkhaldi and Odiong moving to third-leg with Naser to run the home stretch again with expectations high of another thrilling race and another gold for Bahrain.
The race unfolded much like the 100m relay with Bahrain trailing in the first three legs to the Indian quatret led by Hima Das. By the time Odiong handed over the baton to Naser, the Indians were well on their way to winning their third successive gold in this event.
Naser once again gave it her all but this time the gap was too big and the gas in the tank too little.
Bahrain lost the gold much earlier when amateurish exchange of baton at the end of the first leg between Jamal and Essa and another fumble between Essa and Odiong had cost them precious seconds.
The men’s quartet, meanwhile, finished fifth in the 4x400m relay.
“I thank God for giving me the three gold medals, and I’m very happy,” said Odiong.
“I was thinking – now I want to go for four ... It was too much. I’m happy but 400 was too much,” she added.
l Golden touch for India - Page 22
l Bahrain set for gold challenge - Page 23