2016-02-18 – Doha. Speaking to a large gathering of journalists on the eve of the 7th AAA Asian Indoor Athletics Championships, Asian Athletics Association (AAA) and Qatar Athletics Federation President Major General Dahlan Al Hamad didn't mince words about the competition that kicks off Friday morning at Doha's Aspire Dome.
"Three days of athletics action await us with Asia’s elite athletes vying for the honour to win the continental title in what is expected to be, judging from the early signs, one of the best indoor athletics competitions ever held in Asia."
Nearly 300 athletes from 36 countries are expected to compete at the championships this weekend in the same facility that hosted the event in 2008 and the IAAF World Indoor Championships two years later.
The latter is still widely regarded as one of the finest indoor championships ever held, experience Al Hamad said will contribute to staging another successful edition of the AAA’s flagship indoor competition.
"Our experienced personnel have put everything in place as we aim to deliver once again a successful and memorable competition here in Doha."
“Through the 7th Asian Indoor Athletics Championships,” Al Hamad added, “Qatar Athletics Federation will further establish its position as a key and trusted partner of both IAAF and AAA."
Al Hamad listed some of the major stars in the line-up, Olympic triple jump champion Olga Rypakova from Kazakhstan and local hero, the Olympic high jump bronze medalist Mutaz Barshim among them. In all 12 athletes have returned to defend the titles they won two years ago in Hangzhou, China. With the IAAF World Indoor Championships just four weeks away, this weekend’s competition is a major stepping stone for Asian athletes with global aspirations.
The championships will provide the climax of an important week in Doha for Asian athletics, just days after the area federation held a meeting of its Council with IAAF President Lord Sebastian Coe one of the guests.
Among the key decisions:
- confirming Ranchi, India as host of the next Asian Championships
- naming Bangkok, Thailand as host of the 2017 Asian Youth Championships from 16-19 May
- reconfirming Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, as host of the 2016 Asian Junior Championships from 3-6 June
- The 2016 Asian 20km Race walking Championships will be held at Nomi-shi, Japan on 20 March, a qualifying event for the 2016 Olympic Games; and
- Shanghai, China will host the 2017 Asian Marathon Championship in the month of April
Also speaking at the press conference, Maurice R. Nicholas, the long-time treasurer of the AAA, mentioned the notable progress the regional body has experienced in recent years which has helped foster the rising global stature of many of the region’s athletes.
“Why have we progressed? Because we have become professional in the way we organise our events,” Nicholas said. “And our coaches are professionals. We don’t do things like in the old days, on trial and error. Everything is from a professional approach.”
The same holds true for Qatari sprinter Samuel Francis, who will be gunning for a fourth Asian indoor 60m title on the championships opening day.
As he struggled with injury over the past few seasons, Francis, 28, watched his area records in the sprints fall to younger compatriot Femi Ogunode. He’s rejuvenated now thanks to a more streamlined approach, he said, and looking forward to title defence.
“I’m really psyched, and ready to go out run,” said Francis, whose career best of 6.54 in the 60 metres dates back to 2008. “I’m very healthy and my training’s been great. It should be a very good thing to come back and win it here again.”
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