Stuart Weir wrote this column as his last from Doha last Friday, before his trek to Tokyo, then Yokohama, Japan. In this column, Stuart looks to the future of athletics in Qatar, with the absense of 3 huge stars for Doha this coming September: Haroun, Barshim and Samba.
One interesting aspect of the 2019 Doha Diamond League was to the opportunity to assess the state of Qatari athletics in the year that it is hosting the World Championships. Qatar has two athletes in absolute World Class – Mutaz Essa Barshim, the 2017 World Champion and 2012 and 2016 Olympic medallist in high-jump and Abderrahman Samba who ran the second fastest time ever in the 400m hurdles last year. Neither was competing this year as their events were not in the program.
Abdalla Abubaker Haydar, who had competed in the 2016 Olympics, was fourth in the 800m in 1:44.82. Just 22, he has the time and potential to develop into a top athlete. Three other Qataris in the 800 took 10th, 11th and 13th places. Muhand Saifeldin, just 20, ran a PR of 3:43.62 in the 1500. Another 20 year old, Moaaz Mohamed Ibrahim, was ninth in the discus.
Jaber Al Mamari (21.47) and Owaab Barrow (21.55), both 18 year-olds, each ran PRs in the 200m. Both relished the opportunity to compete at the elite level. Barrow’s goal in 2019 is to make the Qatar team for the World Championships, seeing that prospect not only as a “very big achievement and a great experience but also a stepping stone for me to the World Junior Championships in 2020”. Al Mamari relished the chance to compete in the Diamond League, feeling “ready to run with the big boys, fight and compete with them”. He added, “I feel good when I am running against the top athletes. I hope I will have the chance to talk to some of the stars and find out how they became champions and ask their advice”.
While there were no women in the senior races, there was a girls’ 100m race with 8 girls aged 14-17 running as well as a girls’ and mixed relay, which shows the country’s commitment to sport for girls.
Qatar has some way to go before it can take its place among the top athletics nations but it has started on the journey. The athletes I spoke to were convinced that the World Championships will give a further boost to the sport.