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GOLD FOR BEKELE!

BAHRAIN won three medals last night on a spectacular second day of action in the 20th Asian Athletics Championships in Pune, India, reports PATRICK SALOMON.

Alemu Bekele won the gold medal in the men's 10,000 metres, while compatriot Bilisuma Shugi Jamal finished right behind to capture the silver.

Sprinter Ali Khamis then picked up the Bahraini team's third medal yesterday, taking the silver in the men's 400 metres.

Bahrain's haul on day two brought their medal tally to four so far. Shitaye Eshete Mubarak won a gold medal on the competition's opening night in the women's 10,000m.

Bahrain now have two gold medals to show for their efforts, and several of the kingdom's top athletes are still to compete.

Following last night's fine show, the Bahraini team were congratulated by Supreme Council for Youth and Sports first deputy chairman and Bahrain Athletic Association (BAA) president Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa.

Shaikh Khalid attended the events for the second day in a row and lauded the kingdom's athletes for their impressive display.

In the men's 10,000m, Bekele showed why he is considered as one of the sport's best up-and-coming distance runners after claiming the gold medal in style with a time of 28 minutes 47.26 seconds.

Bilisuma is also another rising star, and he was not far behind his countryman in 28:58.67. Ratiram Saini of India claimed the bronze medal in the event in 29:35.42.

Bekele's victory made it a perfect two-for-two for Bahrain in the 10,000m distance, with Bekele winning the men's final and Shitaye claiming the women's race.

In the men's 400m final, Khamis put up a strong fight for the win but was beaten by the narrowest of margins.

Khamis was the runner-up in 45.65 seconds. while gold was claimed by Yousef Ahmed Masrahi of Saudi Arabia in 45.08s.

Yuzo Kanemaru of Japan finished third in 45.95s.

Silverware

All three of Bahrain's medallists received their silverware last night.

Meanwhile, the Bahraini team had other reasons to celebrate yesterday on a fine day of competition.

Former double World champion Rashid Ramzi made a successful comeback to the sport after nearly five years out of competition by qualifying for the men's 1,500m final.

Ramzi qualified along with fellow-Bahraini Belal Mansoor Ali, and the pair will be going for a one-two finish in the medal race, scheduled to take place today.

Ramzi was competing in the second of two semi-final heats yesterday. He claimed third place with a time of 3:51.63. Mohamad Algarni of Qatar was the winner in 3:51.23, while in second place was Indian Sandeep Karan Singh in 3:51.48.

In heat one, Belal won in 3:52.16. Emad Hamed Nour of Saudi was the runner-up in 3:52.67, while third was Hamza Driouch of Qatar in 3:53.90.

Just as Bahrain had their success yesterday, the nationals also experienced some disappointments.

Both Mohammed Salman and Ali Al Doseri missed out on qualification for the men's 100m final.

Running in semi-final heat one, Salman was sixth in 10.86s.

The race winner was Su Bingtian in 10.37s. Al Doseri in heat two finished in sixth place in 10.59s. Oman's Barakat Al Harthi won in 10.27s.

Only the top four from each race made it through to the medal race.

Also yesterday, jumper Abdulrahman Khamis also faield to book a place in the event's final. He finished 18th out of 19 participants competing in qualifying. He had a best jump of 6.77 metres.

Apart from Ramzi and Belal, Salman and Al Doseri will be back in action today joining the rest of Bahrain's 4x100m relay team in round one.

Also taking to the track will be Mimi Salem in the women's 1,500m final, Dejene Regassa and late entry Tareq Mubarak Taher in the men's 3,000m steeplechase final, and Ruth Jebet, another last-minute addition to the Bahrain team, running in the women's 3,000m steeplechase final.



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