“GOLDEN Girl” Salwa Naser was the star of stars last night as Bahrain captured another five medals to bring their overall tally to 14 in the 23rd Asian Athletics Championships in Doha.
Salwa was a key protagonist in two of the Bahrainis’ successes yesterday. She helped fuel the mixed relay team to the gold medal in the 4x400m event, as well as the women’s relay team to the bronze medal in the 4x100m race.
Both events were held just 35 minutes apart, and they were already Salwa’s second and third races of the day, having already competed in the women’s 200m semi-finals and equalling a championship record in that sprint.
Her packed programme did not faze the supremely talented 20-year-old.
Salwa was the key in the mixed relay race. She was the team’s third runner and was well behind her Indian counterpart Vismaya Velluvakoroth as she took the baton from teammate Aminat Yusuf Jamal. But Salwa masterfully made up the big gap of more than 20 metres and powered to the lead before handing over the duties to Abbas Abubaker for the final leg.
Abubaker did well to hold on to their advantage despite a strong challenge from their Indian opponents. Bahrain won the race in a time of three minutes 15.75 seconds. Musa Isah had started the event for the nationals.
India were second in 3:16.47 and Japan third in 3:20.29.
It was the second medal of the day for Salwa after earlier anchoring the women’s relay team in their 4x100m final. Joining her in that race were Edidiong Odiong, Iman Jassim and Hajar Alkhaldi. They had a fine start but ultimately could not match the pace of their rivals from China and Kazakhstan.
The Bahrainis finished in 43.61 seconds, with Salwa making a strong final charge. China won the gold medals in 42.87 seconds, while Kazakhstan claimed the silver in 43.36 seconds.
With her two medals yesterday, Salwa brought her personal tally for the championships to three medals. She had also previously won the gold medal in the women’s 400m on opening night.
Salwa will have a chance to add yet another medal to her winnings after advancing yesterday to the women’s 200m final, which is a part of today’s programme on the final day of the championships.
Salwa won the second of three heats in sizzling fashion, clocking a time of 22.84 seconds, which was her new personal best in the distance and which equalled the championship record of Sri Lankans KV Dharsha and Susanthika Jayasinghe, who had set the mark in 2000 and 2002, respectively.
Fellow-Bahraini Odiong joins Salwa in this evening’s 200m final after finishing second in her heat with a time of 23.53 seconds, which was her season’s best.
Meanwhile, joining Salwa as a multiple gold-medallist in Doha yesterday was Winfred Yavi, who raced to first place in the women’s 3,000 metres steeplechase.
Yavi won the event in a season’s best time of 9:46.18. She was well clear at the front, having built a gap of more than five seconds from her closest challenger Shuangshuang Xu of China, who took the silver in 9:51.76.
Fellow-Bahraini Tigest Mekonen joined Yavi on the steeplechase podium after finishing the race in third, also with a season’s best time of 9:53.96.
The result earned Yavi her second gold medal of the championships after previously claiming the gold in the women’s 5,000m.
The third gold medal last night was won by Shitaye Eshete in the women’s 10,000m final, where she enjoyed a dominant performance. After running behind Japan’s Hitomi Niya for a majority of the race, Shitaye made her way to the front with just three laps to go. At the bell, she had already built a significant gap from Niya and enjoyed a solo run to the finish.
Shitaye won with a new championship record time of 31:15.62, shattering the old mark of 31:52.29 set in 2015 by over a half-minute.
Elsewhere yesterday, in the men’s 200m semi-finals, Yaqoob Salem punched his ticket to the medal stage after finishing second in his heat with a time of 20.71 seconds. Countryman Abdo Baraka could not join him as he did not finish his heat.
In the men’s 1,500m, the Bahraini pair of Abraham Rotich and Mohamed Tiouali advanced to the final after winning their respective heats. Rotich claimed first place in the first of two races with a time of 3:55.61. Tiouali followed suit with the win in race two in 3:49.14.