JAKARTA: At the midway stage of the Asian Games, Saudi Arabia have already won two medals, but the second week of the world’s second-largest multisport event is where the Kingdom hopes to enjoy more success.
Hussain Al-Harbi secured the Saudi National Olympic Committee its first medal of the 2018 Games — a silver — on Friday when he finished one-point behind winner Youngjeon Choi in the Men’s 300m Standard Rifle shooting event in Palembang. The 42-year-old was then accompanied into the record books 24-hours later in Jakarta by Tareg Ali Hamedi, who defeated Shadykanov Adilet of Kyrgyzstan 4-0 in the bronze medal match of the men’s +84kg karate event.
“This is not for me alone, but for all the Saudi people,” Al-Harbi said after scoring 568 points across the three disciplines: kneeling, prone, and standing. “The competition was strong, especially with the Korean players. My ambition was gold, but I was denied by a single point. Thanks and appreciation must go to the Saudi delegation. Our sport is moving in the right direction.”
Hamedi, 20, was named by the World Karate Federation in 2016 as the sport’s most promising and distinguished player, but lost 4-1 to eventual gold medallist Sajad Ganjzadeh in the semifinal. The Dammam-born athlete’s bronze medal was Saudi Arabia’s seventh in Karate across the 10 Asian Games the Kingdom has competed. Although the wait for gold continues, karate is now the country’s second-most successful sport behind athletics.
Saudi have won 29 medals in athletics, including 17 golds, since first participating in the 1978 Asiad.
It is hoped that this figure will be added to in the coming week as 17 of Saudi’s 169-athlete delegation take to the track and field inside the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium. The last time Saudi left an Asian Games with less than seven medals was in 1990 so expectations are high.
Abdullah Abkar Mohammed will contest the 100m semifinal on Sunday after finishing second in his qualifying heat, just 0.02 seconds behind Chunhan Yang of Chinese Taipei who clocked 10.13.
Mohammed competed at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and has a personal best of 10.04.
Meanwhile the football team must beat Japan on Sunday to reach the semifinal, the volleyball side face Taipei this evening, and the water polo team get their campaign underway this afternoon against Vietnam. Jiu jitsu action will also take place on Sunday, although Saudi have yet to show they can compete at the same level of their Gulf neighbors, the UAE.
The Emirates in fact top the medal standings among the Arab countries, in large part to their jiu-jitsu contingent who have so far secured two golds, four silvers and a bronze. Ali Allanjawi also won gold for his country in the Runabout Limited category of jet-ski to help the Emirates climb to 12th in the overall standings. Jordan are similarly strong in combat competition, sharing their seven medals across jiu-jitsu (one silver and two bronze) and taekwondo (one gold and three bronze).
Lebanon with one gold and a bronze in shooting, a silver in wrestling and bronze in taekwondo, sit 22nd in the table, narrowly ahead of Iraq, who won gold in weightlifting through Safa Rashed, and Bahrain, who won two silvers in athletics. Meanwhile Saudi and Qatar share 27th place with two medals apiece after Qatar won silver in weightlifting and bronze in shooting.