With less than 40 days to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Qatar’s talented Athletics track team are in the final stages of their intense training for Olympic glory.
Consisting of the fastest man in Asia - Femi Ogunode, World Indoor 500m Champion Abdelalah Haroun, multiple Asian Champion Mohammed al-Garni and up and coming young talent AbuBaker Haydar, the quartet have high hopes of making the podium.
The Rio 2016 Olympic Games will mark the first time the Olympics are held in South America and will see over 10,000 athletes from 206 nations compete in Rio de Janeiro. The best athletes from around the globe will challenge themselves to the absolute limit of their ability before a global TV audience of 4.8 billion people.
Qatar will send its biggest delegation to the Olympic Games since its debut in Los Angeles 1984. Recent qualifiers in boxing, beach volleyball and weightlifting have taken the Team Qatar tally to 40 athletes across 10 sports – with other sports including athletics, swimming, shooting, handball, equestrian, table tennis, judo and weightlifting.
To support its athletes on their journey in Rio, the QOC has launched the #YallaQatar campaign across its social media channels with the aim of showcasing Qatar’s athletes and their incredible feats. The Olympic Dreams film series are profiling each team and athlete, and exploring the highs, lows, motivations and dreams of Qatar’s Olympians.
Qatar’s runners have dominated the regional stage in their lead up to Rio, with 1500m and 5000m runner al-Garni – who is heading to his second Olympics after reaching the semi-finals in London 2012 - racking up over 10 medals in indoor and outdoor Asian competitions.
Al-Garni, 24, recalls London 2012 fondly and hopes to leverage his experience there to put him on the podium in Rio 2016. “London 2012 was special for me – I was young and I tried to do my best in the semi-finals. Now I have the experience – I know what the Olympics are like,” he said. “I’m heading to Rio 2016 with more concentration, enthusiasm, and excitement.”
Haydar, 19, who will compete in the 800m event in Rio, trains relentlessly to achieve his dreams and his hard work paid off when he qualified for the Olympics in the Doha leg of the IAAF Diamond League in May 2016. “We train twice a day, every day - except Fridays and Sundays. On those days we train in the morning but rest in the evenings” Haydar said, adding, “The hardest part about training is never giving up.”
For Haydar, his positive attitude is in large part thanks to his education at Doha’s Aspire Academy: “They taught us to love sports,” he said, adding, “Aspire Academy is my foundation – they’ve supported me from the ground up and offered us everything we need.”
The young 800m runner is one of three Aspire Academy alumni to head to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games – along with world indoor champion and Olympic bronze medallist Mutaz Barshim and two-time World Junior Hammer throw champion Ashraf Elseify – a testament to Aspire’s commitment to holistically developing a new generation of sporting heroes.
For 400m runner Haroun, 19, athletics was literally the realisation of his dream: “I love athletics because it was my dream to be a track and field athlete and by persistence I managed to make it come true,” he said. “It is such a big thing to compete in the Olympics for the first time and I have to do my absolute best.”
Despite his young age Haroun is already quite an accomplished athlete, having set the world record for the indoor 500m race in 2015 and winning the silver medal in a stunning 2016 World Indoor Championship finals, showing that he is in phenomenal form ahead of this summer’s Olympics.
Joining al-Garni, Haydar and Haroun is the Femi Ogunode, 25, who currently holds the Asian 100m record with a blistering 9.91 seconds. Ogunode alone has won a staggering five gold medals in Asian Championships including the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games.
“My coaches and I have been preparing every day and I’ve been training hard to make sure I am in the best possible shape for the Olympics,” Ogunode said, adding, “This will be the first time I ever compete in the Olympic Games and I will give everything that I have to raise Qatar’s flag.”
Along with Ogunode, each of the Qatar’s accomplished track team have their own clear dreams for Rio. For al-Garni, it is about using London 2012 as a learning experience:
“I will make sure to avoid the mistakes that I made in London and to improve on my performance,” al-Garni said, adding, “I have higher ambitions to be in the top three in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.”
Haroun also has eyes on the podium despite it being his first Olympic Games:
“It is such a big thing to compete in the Olympics for the first time and I have to do my absolute best. In Rio I would like to win a medal.”
Haydar’s dreams, while seemingly more modest, still share the same yearning for glory: “My wish is to get as far as I possibly can in Rio – which is the final.” Haydar said, adding, “Once you get to the final - everyone has a chance to get a medal.
© Gulf Times Newspaper 2019