Gen 10: Bahraini 400m sprinter Salwa Eid Naser (© Getty Images)
Looking ahead to the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, we're highlighting the rise of a new generation, 10 exciting prospects under the age of 21 who are set to become stars of the sport over the next few years.
The series began last week with Swedish pole vaulter Armand Duplantis, US sprinter Sydney McLaughlin, Ethiopian distance runner Selemon Barega, Jamaican sprinter Briana Williams and Cuban long jumper Juan Miguel Echevarria.
The series continues throughout Monday to Friday this week as we reveal the five remaining athletes, starting with Bahraini sprinter Salwa Eid Naser.
Profile: Salwa Eid Naser
Salwa Eid Naser was aware of her talent early in her childhood, outsprinting kids in street races and winning her first competitive race at the age of 11.
She also won her first 400m race soon after, but it hurt so much that afterwards she resolved never to do the event again.
Luckily, though, she did, and in 2014 she took gold over both 200m and 400m at the Arab Junior Championships in Cairo. Later that summer she ran a personal best of 52.74 to take silver at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing.
She made an even bigger splash one year later when she took gold over 400m in 51.50 at the IAAF World U18 Championships Cali 2015. Her progress continued in 2016 as she clocked a national U20 record of 50.88 in the semifinals at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Still an U20 athlete throughout 2017, Naser soon found her place among the world’s elite and took the silver medal at the IAAF World Championships in London in 50.06, becoming the youngest woman to win a 400m medal at the World Championships. She ended the season with an Asian U20 record of 49.88 when finishing second at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels.
Sub-50-second clockings became familiar territory in 2018 and she won 10 of her 11 400m races. Her one loss of the year, the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco, also happened to be her fastest as she clocked an Asian record of 49.08.
After that record-breaking run, Naser went on to win the Asian Games title in Jakarta, the IAAF Diamond League title in Brussels and the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava.
Still just 20 years of age, Naser has already made a mark on her event. She promises there’s more to come, too.
10 facts about Naser
1. Her mother was an athlete
Although not quite at the same level, Naser’s mother was a 100m and 200m sprinter.
2. She has beaten her idol. Twice.
“Allyson Felix is my role model,” says Naser, who is 2-0 up on the US sprinter in their career head-to-head record. “I follow her on Instagram.”
3. She has no plans to move up in distance.
"I might try the 200m in future, but it's the 400m for now."
4. She doesn’t feel any pressure
“I am never under pressure,” she says. “No matter what it is, I am always calm and I’m always able to pull through.”
5. She was hit by a car at the age of six and hurt her ankle.
"I had bought an ice cream but had forgotten my change and as I ran across the road to retrieve it, that’s when the car hit me."
6. The ankle injury came back to haunt her at the worst possible moment.
Just a week before the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Naser twisted her ankle and her old injury returned.
7. …but she ignored doctors' advice.
“I was given ultrasound and advised not to compete, but this was my first Olympics and I wanted to race,” explains Naser, who went on to set a lifetime best in Rio.
8. She recorded seven sub-50-second clockings in 2018.
The last woman to record that many within one season was Sanya Richards-Ross in 2009.
9. She won the IAAF Diamond League title on tired legs.
Naser wasn’t one of the athletes who competed in both IAAF Diamond League finals on successive days. If anything, her schedule at the end of August was a lot tougher as she had competed in (and won) the 400m at the Asian Games in Jakarta on 25 and 26 August, ran in the 4x100m heats on 29 August, won the 4x100m final on 30 August and went on to take silver in the 4x400m. She flew to Brussels later that night and won the IAAF Diamond League 400m title just hours later in 49.33.
10. It may have been her one loss of the year, but her highlight of 2018 was running an Asian record of 49.08
“After the race I didn't even know my time,” she says. “The people in doping control told me. That 49.08 was the coolest thing that happened to me this year.”
Bahraini women with global titles in athletics
Maryam Yusuf Jamal, 1500m, 2007 World Championships, 2009 World Championships, 2012 Olympics
Ruth Jebet, 3000m steeplechase, 2014 World U20 Championships, 2016 Olympics
Salwa Eid Naser, 400m, 2015 World U18 Championships
Kemi Adekoya, 400m, 2016 World Indoor Championships
Edidiong Ofinome Odiong, 200m, 2016 World U20 Championships
Rose Chelimo, marathon, 2017 World Championships