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Monday , September 28 2020

Warholm wins hurdles, Kuwaiti qualifies for semis

Third gold for Lasitskene

Yaqoub Al-Yoha celebrates after his race.

DOHA, Oct 1, (Agencies): Kuwaiti runner Yousef Karam qualified for the 400-meter semifinals in the 2019 World Athletics Championships currently held in Doha, Qatar.

In a statement to KUNA on Tuesday, Head of the Kuwaiti delegation, Board Member of Kuwait Athletics Association Dr Manea Al-Ajmi hailed Karam’s achievement, noting that the athlete has witnessed a tough competition from the best athletes in the world.

He pointed out that the result came after months of continuous training, great efforts, hoping that the Kuwaiti racers would achieve advanced positions in the final stage.

On Wednesday, Karam will partake in the semifinals of the 400-meter race while his compatriot racer Yaqoub Al-Yoha will compete in the 110-meter hurdles semifinals in the championship.

This is first time for a Middle East country to host these championships, which last until Oct 6 with the participation of nearly 1,000 athletes, males and females, from 209 countries.

Karsten Warholm remains the man to beat in the 400-meter hurdles ahead of next year’s Olympics after defending his world track championship title Monday, while Qatar celebrated the host nation’s first medal.

The Norwegian hurdler donned a Viking-style horned helmet – accessorized with an Arab man’s headband – to celebrate winning in 47.42 seconds. He had briefly looked capable of challenging Kevin Young’s 27-year-old world record but faded on the final turn.

Abderrahman Samba delighted the Qataris in the sparse crowd with bronze behind Rai Benjamin of the United States. That sparked a stampede of fans rushing to the front of the VIP section.

Once again at these poorly attended championships, the day’s showpiece final was run in front of rows of empty seats.

Kenyan and Ethiopian fans made by far the most noise of the evening for the men’s 5,000 final but left when the distance events finished. Muktar Edris repeated as world champion ahead of fellow Ethiopian Selemon Barega.

 Caster Semenya cast a long shadow over the women’s 800. The South African defending champ wasn’t running because she refuses IAAF demands to medically reduce her natural testosterone levels.

In her stead, Uganda’s Halimah Nakaayi stormed to the gold medal before celebrating with exuberant dances. Ajee Wilson had to settle for silver for the United States.

Russia’s team of officially neutral athletes celebrated a second gold thanks to a third consecutive world title for high jumper Mariya Lasitskene.

One of the most dominant athletes of recent years in any event, Lasitskene is a prominent critic of the suspended Russian track federation’s faltering efforts to show it had reformed.

Sweden celebrated its first world gold medal in six years as Daniel Stahl won the men’s discus.

Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech was so new to the steeplechase two years ago that she missed a water jump and had to make a U-turn, costing her a medal at the world championships.

Since then, she has gained experience, broke the world-record, and Monday, won the world title in dominating fashion.

Chepkoech blazed out to a big lead and only got stronger from there as she finished in 8 minutes, 57.84 seconds, 4-1/2 seconds ahead of runner-up Emma Coburn of the US.

Coburn had a feeling Chepkoech would jump to a big lead. Coburn, the world champion in 2017, knows that Chepkoech likes to make others hurt by pushing the pace. She stayed patient, hoping her rival would lose steam.

Chepkoech didn’t.

“I was letting her do her thing,” said Coburn, who finished in a personal-best time of 9:02.35. “That’s how she’s been most successful. The times she’s lost is the times that she’s been with the pack and got out-kicked. But I thought there’s a chance she might come back.” Chepkoech is a former 100-meter sprinter turned 1,500-meter specialist turned steeplechaser. She made the switch leading into the London world championships and was so raw that she simply forgot to cut inside for the first water jump.

She still finished fourth.

Abderrahman Samba’s bronze in the 400-meter hurdles Monday was the first Qatari medal at the world track championships and sparked joy in the VIP enclosure, the one part of the stadium where local fans were dominant.

“Today when they say my name, everybody starts screaming,” Samba said. “I say to myself, ‘Just go, man’.” Samba was born in Saudi Arabia and competed for his father’s home nation of Mauritania in Africa before getting a Qatari passport in 2015, just five months after moving to the country. Such nationality switches are a sore point for track’s international governing body.

For years the IAAF has been trying to shut down what its council member Hamad Kalkaba Malboum likened in 2017 to a “wholesale market for African talent.” “You can’t have athletes being traded, it’s bordering on trafficking if you’re not careful,” IAAF President Sebastian Coe told The Associated Press in August. “I’ve had member federation presidents who have said to me openly that they were waking up to emails from people saying ‘We’ve got so and so (who) is available for …’ You can’t have that.” Qatar’s team has athletes originally from at least six other countries including Britain, Nigeria and Egypt. Qatar offers athletes advanced training facilities and a chance to shine. The new arrivals generally don’t have prior ties to the nation.

In a country where native Qataris are vastly outnumbered by migrant workers, whether Bangladeshis on construction sites or service workers from the Philippines, relying on imported talent is nothing new.

Qatar’s two-time Olympic high jump medalist Mutaz Barshim was born in the country, but sometimes Qatar and other nations seem to behave like professional soccer clubs rather than national teams.

The IAAF has reported Ashraf Amjad Al-Saifi was “spotted” when winning the Egyptian youth title in hammer throw aged 15 and handed a Qatari passport a few months later in 2011. New IAAF rules aim to prevent a repeat with a three-year waiting period to compete for a new nation.

In the Kenyan town of Iten, known as the “University of Champions” for training star distance runners, Qatar promised to build a stadium after naturalizing Kenyan runner Stephen Cherono, later known as Saif Saaeed Shaheen. The track was to bear the tartan pattern found on local people’s cloaks.

Although Shaheen brought Qatar onto the international track stage with world championship gold medals in 2003 and 2005, no stadium was ever built.

Renato Canova, an Italian distance coach who formerly trained Qatar’s team and now works in Kenya, argues athletes have the right to switch to escape tough competition for squad places at home.

“When we speak about World Championships and Olympics, those that involve all the world, then the athletes have the right to go.” In 2017, the IAAF froze all nationality switches in track and field. One of its concerns was that athletes were being traded by influential agents, without much say over which country they represented.

The IAAF has also fought to ensure naturalized athletes get full citizenship rights. That didn’t always happen in the past, leaving them at risk of being abandoned if their performances dropped.

There are signs that the pressure on some naturalized athletes leads them to break the rules. Since June, two Africa-born athletes for Bahrain have been banned for doping, including Olympic marathon silver medalist Eunice Kirwa. A third was pulled from worlds for an investigation into missed drug tests.

It’s not only Arab nations fielding athletes who’ve switched allegiance.

The Netherlands has Sifan Hassan, who arrived from Ethiopia as a 15-year-old refugee and gained Dutch nationality five years later. On Sunday, she became world champion in the 10,000 meters.

Born in Iten, Paul Chelimo won the Olympic silver at 5,000 for the United States but had to serve in the US Army on his way to gaining citizenship.

Speaking during training Kenya before the world championships, he was sure he made the right choice. “I’m happy I made the decision, because I would not have had such a good chance here.”

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