Gulf states strike athletics gold at Asiad

INCHEON, South Korea: Bahrain and Qatar struck more Asian Games athletics gold Monday as their policy of cherry-picking top African talent continued to pay off, while North Korea stunned the South with a late winner in their women’s football semifinal.

Mohammad al-Garni and Maryam Yusuf Jamal added their names to the growing list of African-born runners who have won gold for oil-rich Gulf states Qatar and Bahrain.

Their wins in the men’s and women’s 1,500 meters came a day after Nigerian-born Femi Ogunode, running for Qatar, became the first sprinter to run under 10 seconds at the Asian Games.

Garni, who was born in Morocco, said his victory summed up everything an athlete needed to prosper. “If you have a dream, a good coach, and good staff, you can achieve what you want,” he said.

Rashid Ramzi, another Moroccan-born athlete, finished second to Garni. Ramzi won the 2008 Olympic title for Bahrain but was disqualified for a failed doping test.

Abubaker Ali Kamal won the men’s 3,000 meters steeplechase for Qatar Monday. Like Ogunode and Ramzi, he has also returned to competition after serving a drugs ban.

Wei Jizhong, an honorary life vice-president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), warned of the dangers of buying overnight success rather than growing it at home.

“If they buy the athletes, they stop training their own athletes,” he said at a news conference.

Qatar has obviously invested much in home-grown high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim, who defended his Asiad title and cleared 2.35 meters, breaking a 32-year Asian Games record.

There is no telling how high Barshim might go one day.

“My goal? I don’t want to put a limit on myself,” he said. “I don’t know how high I can jump, but I want to push myself.”

China has no shortage of home-grown badminton talent and two giants of the game, Lin Dan and Chen Long, squared off in the men’s singles final.

Double Olympic champion Lin, who ousted world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei in the semifinals, had to battle back from a set down against Chen to win his second straight Asiad title.

The 30-year-old shows no signs of slowing down and when asked what his next goal was, suggested he could still be around for the 2020 Olympic Games.

“I am looking forward to going to Tokyo next,” he said.

Kazakhstan had won an average of one gold per day through the first nine days of competition in Incheon, but the floodgates opened Monday with five golds in canoe/kayak and another in men’s beach volleyball.

Inna Klinova, who won gold in the women’s canoe sprint kayak single 200 meters, said the secret of Kazakhstan’s success was not hard to work out.

“It’s good training. Medals are results of hard work,” she added. “I think in the future, Kazakhstan will take more medals.”

The gold medal flurry saw the Kazakhs jump to fourth place in the medals table with 15 golds, while China, who will finish top of the table for a ninth straight Games, have 112.

The battle for second continues to rage but golds were in short supply for both South Korea and Japan Monday. The Koreans, who are determined to finish second to powerhouse China for a fifth consecutive Games, picked up golds in the men’s tennis doubles and men’s kayak single 100 meters to take their tally to 44

Japan’s only gold of the day came in the kayak double 200 meters, falling nine golds behind their fierce rivals on 35.

Japan will get the chance to add to that tally in the final of the women’s football competition after easing past Vietnam 3-0, while South Korea’s hopes were snuffed out by the North thanks to substitute Ho Un Byol’s winner moments from time.

South Korea coach Yoon Duk-yeo said he had wished his North Korean counterpart Kim Kwang Min well for the final.

“I encouraged him to win a gold medal and he also gave kudos to our team,” he said. “I hope that they can win the gold.”

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