‘Man, I was so surprised’: Saudi Olympian Al-Muawi clinches bronze in Argentina games

The podium for the Athletics Mens 200m: Haruto Deguchi JPN (centre, Gold Medalist), Daniel Huller HUN (left, Silver Medalist) and Mohammed Duhaim M Almuawi KSA (right, Bronze Medalist) at the Athletics Field, Youth Olympic Park. The Youth Olympic Games, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday 16th October 2018. Photo: Ivo Gonzalez for OIS/IOC. (Handout image supplied by OIS/IOC)
Updated 17 October 2018
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‘Man, I was so surprised’: Saudi Olympian Al-Muawi clinches bronze in Argentina games

  • Al-Muawi has been racing hurdles for five years after picking it out as a sport he could excel in at the age of 12

BUENOS AIRES: With his bag packed and preparing to leave the Youth Olympic Park one last time on Tuesday night, Mohammed Al-Muawi was called back to the scene of the 400-metres Hurdles event, in which he had just finished fourth overall. With doping officials thronged at the entrance, he assumed he must have been randomly selected for testing. Instead, he got the news he will now never forget.

The 17-year-old Saudi is an Olympic bronze medallist.

“Man, I was so surprised to find out,” he told Arab News after being promoted onto the podium after South Africa’s Lindukhule Gora was disqualified. “It was my first competition and my first medal, so it’s amazing. This here means everything to me. When I finished the race, I was like ‘OK, fourth is OK’. I put my clothes back on and got ready to leave, but then they told me: ‘Come back, come back! You have a bronze medal!’ I was like, ‘What? How is that even possible?’”

Under a blistering sun and having led for much of the first 300m, Al-Muawi tired as the home straight loomed, crossing the finish-line fifth with a time of 53.05s. With Gora being disqualified for stepping out of his lane, however, Al-Muawi was immediately pushed up a place. Then, having bettered France’s Martin Fraysse’s time in the first-stage heat, it came down to the calculator.

Al-Muawi was 0.37s faster than Fraysse in the first heat, while Fraysse finished the second just 0.33s ahead. The result: the Asian Youth Championships silver-medallist posted a combined time of 1.45.81, making him the third quickest across a field of continental winners, beating Fraysse by just 0.04s.

“It's confusing for sure, but across the two heats, I was second and fourth, so I feel third is deserved," he said, looking down and caressing the bronze medal hanging from his neck. "It was a very strong field in the final. I started well, but the last 100m or so was very tiring and I was unable to really open my legs. It’s been an amazing experience though. Wow. I love the competition, the village, eating the different foods…it’s been unforgettable. And this just tops it all off.”

Al-Muawi splits his time between schooling in Bisha in the south of the Kingdom and training in Los Angeles, California, with World Championships silver-medallist Ryan Wilson. Saudi athletics delegation head, Saad Al-Asmari — himself a former 3000m Asian champion — expects this to be the start of more success not only for Al-Muawi but for Saudi athletics.

“Mohammed did very well,” said Al-Asmari. “He ran very well and it was only in the final 100 metres he had some problems. This result is very good for him and I’m very happy because he is only 17. Also, we have many other talents like this in Saudi Arabia. We have many athletes, but we need good coaching.

“Mohammed has been training since May in LA, which is where we send all our best athletes. When they come back, we always notice little differences: their body shape changes, their technique, endurance, everything.”

Al-Muawi has been racing hurdles for five years after picking it out as a sport he could excel in at the age of 12. He will head home to Bisha now to spend time with his family and continue his studies for two months before returning to LA to prepare for next year’s Asian Championships. The most important lesson he has learnt from Wilson in the United States is not physical, but rather psychological, he said.

“It’s has been a great experience for me over there so far,” he added, his English having improved considerably since his switch. “My coach there has shown support throughout, always telling me that I can do it. Always urging me to never give up. He tells me that before every competition I must tell myself: ‘I am hungry’. He tells me always that I’m a different breed too, so I guess I then begin to believe it — yes, I am a different breed."


UAE end Kyrgyzstan’s Asian Cup odyssey

Updated 41 min 56 sec ago
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UAE end Kyrgyzstan’s Asian Cup odyssey

  • Substitute Ahmed Khalil was UAE’s hero on an angst-ridden Abu Dhabi night as he blasted home from the spot in the first additional period
  • Less than a quarter of an hour earlier Kyrgyzstan substitute Tursunali Rustamov had stunned the home side when he snatched a dramatic stoppage-time equalizer

SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates: Hosts United Arab Emirates ended Kyrgyzstan’s fairytale with a controversial extra-time penalty to reach the Asian Cup quarter-finals on a 3-2 soreline Monday.
Substitute Ahmed Khalil was UAE’s hero on an angst-ridden Abu Dhabi night as he blasted home from the spot in the first additional period to set up a meeting with the Socceroos in the last eight.
Less than a quarter of an hour earlier Kyrgyzstan substitute Tursunali Rustamov had stunned the home side when he snatched a dramatic stoppage-time equalizer at the end of a nail-biting contest.
It had taken the Emirates just 14 minutes to break through as Khamis Esmaeel headed in an Ismail Matar corner.
Plucky Kyrgyzstan refused to go unnoticed on their Asian Cup debut, however, and the White Falcons equalized midway through the first half when Mirlan Murzaev squeezed the ball in from a seemingly impossible angle.
Kyrgyz captain Valery Kichin then gave UAE a scare when his curling shot crashed against the crossbar.
But Ali Mabkhout volleyed the 2015 semifinalists back in front with his third goal of the tournament after some horror defending from Mustafa Iusupov.
That looked to have ended Kyrgyz defiance until Rustamov headed home in the dying seconds to force extra time.
But after Mabkhout had tumbled in the box under minimal contact, the Asian Cup hosts were awarded a penalty that was hotly disputed — for the second time in this tournament.
Khalil kept his cool though and drilled home the spot kick on 103 minutes to give UAE a shot at avenging their semifinal defeat by Australia four years ago.
There was still time for Baktyiar Duishobekov and Rustamov to hit the woodowork, but the Emiratis somehow clung on.