BAHRAIN had a dream ending to the 23rd Asian Athletics Championships in Doha last night, winning another eight medals to complete their campaign with a best-ever haul of 22 medals, including 11 gold, seven silver and four bronze medals.
The Bahrainis’ gold-medal tally helped them make history and claim first place overall amongst the participating 43 participating nations. China were second with nine gold and Japan third with four.
“Golden Girl” Salwa Naser once again grabbed the spotlight, winning two of the gold medals clinched by Bahrain on the fourth and final day of action.
Salwa anchored the women’s relay team and claimed a sensational come-from-behind victory in the 4x400m race; while also clinching first place in the women’s 200m where she set a new championship record, eclipsing a mark first set nearly two decades ago.
The two other gold medals won yesterday were claimed by Abraham Rotich in the men’s 1,500m and Birhanu Balew in the men’s 5,000m.
Bahrain’s two silver medals were clinched by Gashaw Tigest in the women’s 1,500m and Albert Rop in the men’s 5,000m; while the pair of bronze medals were won by Winfred Yavi in the women’s 1,500m and Yaqoob Salem in the men’s 200m.
In the women’s 4x400m relay, Salwa was joined on the track by Aminat Yusuf Jamal, Iman Jassim and Zainab Mohamed. Salwa was the fourth and final runner, and when she was handed the baton by Zainab, she was roughly 30m behind leaders India, with Japan and Sri Lanka also ahead of her.
But in a powerful stride, Salwa charged to the front and was not to be denied, overtaking her rivals one by one. It was a stunning finish for the 20-year-old, who crossed the line for the win in a total time of three minutes 32.10 seconds. India were the runners-up in 3:32.21 while Japan won bronze in 3:34.88.
Earlier last night, Salwa claimed her 200m gold medal with a new championship record of 22.74 seconds, which was also a new personal best. The previous day in her semi-final run, she had equalled the previous championship record, which was first set in 2000 and then again in 2002.
Kazakhstan’s Olga Safronova was the silver-medallist in 22.87s while Dutee Chand of India claimed the bronze in 23.24s. Bahrain’s Edidiong Odiong narrowly missed out on third place, classified behind Chand despite finishing with a similar time of 23.24. Odiong had the slower reaction time by just 0.001s.
With her results in the women’s 4x400m and the 200m, Salwa completed the Asian championships with a personal total of five medals, including four gold. She had also claimed first place in the women’s 400m and as a member of the victorious 4x400m mixed relay team, while picking up a bronze medal with the women’s 4x100m squad.
In yesterday’s men’s 5,000m final, Bahrain’s Balew and Rop were dominant as they engineered an impressive one-two finish for gold and silver. The pair were in control of the race in its closing stages, and at the end had only each other to take on to the finish.
Balew marginally beat Rop on the home straight and took first place in 13:37.42. Rop followed in 13:37.57.
In the men’s 1,500m, Abraham Rotich put in a fine performance in claiming gold. He took the lead heading into the final lap and made no mistake with his finishing kick, securing the win in 3:42.85, which was his season’s best time.
Countryman Mohamed Tiouali also had a chance to step onto the podium. He was right behind Rotich nearing the finish but could not keep up his pace in the end. He had to settle for fourth with a season’s best time of 3:44.07.
In the women’s 1,500m, Tigest and Yavi looked set to claim a brilliant one-two as they led the charge at the bell. But India’s Chitra Palakeezhunnikirshnan spoiled their plans and powered to the lead in the home stretch, winning in 4:14.56. Tigest followed in 4:14.81 for silver, while Yavi had a new season’s best of 4:16.18 in taking the bronze medal.
Yavi claimed her third medal of the championships with the result. She had also won gold in the women’s 5,000m and in the 3,000m steeplechase.
Meanwhile, in the men’s 200m, Yaqoob Salem came away with the bronze medal with a strong finish to his run. Salem completed the half-lap in a time of 20.84s, being classified just behind Zhenye Xie of China who won the gold medal in 20.33s and Yuki Koike of Japan who claimed the silver in 20.55s.
Noora Jassim finished eighth overall in the women’s discus throw. Her best was 46.08 metres. China’s Bin Feng was the gold-medallist with a best throw of 65.36m.