Mohamed Al-Garni wins the 3000m at the 2016 Asian Indoor Championships (© Organisers)
Mohamed Al-Garni successfully defended his second title of the weekend, his 3000m win on home turf providing the highlight the final day of theAsian Indoor Championships in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday (21).
Five more championship records fell on the third day of competition in the Aspire Dome, but it was Al-Garni’s victory over 15 laps of the track, his second successive Asian indoor double triumph, that really stood out from the rest.
Biding his time behind Bahrain’s Asian indoor record-holder Albert Rop for much of the race, Al-Garni took the lead for good as he entered the back straight for the final time.
Unlike the early celebration in Saturday’s 1500m that almost certainly cost Al-Garni an Asian indoor record, this time his finish was more subdued: just a raised arm two strides before the finish as he powered through the line in 7:39.23, a national indoor record and the fastest time by an Asian runner this year.
"It wasn’t my plan to stay behind Rop, it was his tactic to make me tired after he watched me running the 1500m yesterday," said Al-Garni. "Still I was able to stay close behind him and make the final kick on the last lap."
Rop finished just a few strides behind in 7:40.27 with Qatar’s Said Aden Said taking third with a personal best of 7:44.69 to collect his second bronze medal in as many days after his third place in the 1500m.
Qatar’s first gold of the afternoon came in a thrilling men’s 800m contest where Musaeb Balla took the victory as expected.
It was a strong run for the two-time Asian champion who took command from the outset and was never headed en route to a 1:46.92 championship record.
"I wanted to win and set a new area record as well, but I didn’t recover in time after the unsuccessful attempt to beat the Asian record in Stockholm," said Balla, who clocked 1:45.93 in the Swedish capital, 0.7 seconds outside of Yusuf Saad Kamel’s continental mark.
"Nevertheless, victory makes me really happy. I expect a very good result in Portland at the World Indoor Championships, as well as at the Olympics."
Behind him an intense battle ensued. Qatari teammates Abubaker Haydar Abdalla and Jamal Hairane shadowed Balla, trying to gain and hold position for a host nation sweep, but Iran’s Mostafa Gholamerza Kordiyani wouldn't relent.
Heading into the the homestretch, first Hairane and then Kordiyani found another gear to overtake Abdalla to finish second and third in 1:48.05 and 1:48.26 respectively.
A similar scenario played out in the women’s race. Marta Hirpato of Bahrain settled into pole position about 80 metres into the race, with Sri Lanka’s Nimal Waliwarsha Arachchige and Japan’s Yume Kitamura giving chase.
The order remained the same coming into the final 100 metres before Hirpato powered away to win in 2:04.59 to the Sri Lankan’s 2:04.88. Kitamura was later disqualified for a lane infraction, elevating Tatyana Neroznak of Kazakhstan to bronze.
Almandeel successfully defends 60m hurdles title
Another successful title defence came courtesy of Kuwait’s Abdulaziz Al-Mandeel, who prevailed in 7.60 in the 60m hurdles.
His time was his second national record and championship record in as many days as well as the fastest time by an Asian athlete this season.
"I am so excited with my time," said Almandeel, who arrived in the Qatari capital with a career best of 7.74. "I feel I can run faster in Portland and secure a place in the final."
In the women’s contest it took a photo reading to separate Kazakhstan’s hurdling Anastasiyas. The verdict went in favour of Anastasiya Soprunova over teammate Pilipenko by a scant 0.002 as each were credited with 8.17, the latter taking the silver medal for the second successive championships.
The penultimate event, the women's 4x400m, witnessed another Asian indoor record courtesy of Bahrain.
The quartet – Alwa Eid Naser, Uwaseun Yusuf Jamal, Iman Essa Jasim and individual 400m winner Oluwakemi Adekoya – clocked 3:35.07 to eclipse the mark set by an Indian team at these championships in 2008.
Qatar won the men's event in 3:08.20, also a championship record, more than three seconds clear of runners-up Iran.
Elsewhere, favourite and defending champion Svetlana Radzivil won the women’s high jump at 1.92m, with teammate Nadiya Dusanova second with 1.88m, to lead a 1-2 finish for Uzbekistan.
Akihiko Nakamura, the 2014 silver medallist, won the men’s heptathlon to capture Japan’s first gold of the championships, adding 107 points to his national record with a tally of 5831. China’s Hu Yufei was second with 5745 points and Uzbekistan’s Marat Khaaydarov third with 5619.
Zhang Yaoguang of China won the long jump with 7.99m ahead of India’s Prem Kumar Kumaravel, who was second in 7.92m.
Liu Yang, also from China and the bronze medallist two years ago at the last edition of the championships, moved up two rungs on the podium after winning the men’s shot put with 19.30m.
Qatar topped the medal table with six golds, followed by China with five, and Kazakhstan with four. China won 13 medals in all, followed by Qatar and Kazakhstan with 10 apiece.
Bob Ramsak (organisers) for the IAAF