INCHEON, South Korea (AFP) – The UAE’s Alia Saeed Mohammed ran a personal best to win the Asian Games women’s 10,000 metres on Saturday and claim the first of an expected slew of medals for African-born athletes running for wealthy Gulf states.
Mohammed, originally from Ethiopia, led a breakaway trio with five laps to go at Incheon’s Asiad Main Stadium, comfortably holding off China’s Ding Changgin and Ayumi Hagiwara of Japan to claim her adopted country’s first gold of the Games.
Qatar’s Mohamad Al-Garni, who was born in Morocco, followed up with gold in the men’s 5,000m, launching a blistering last-lap kick to stun pre-race favourite Albert Kibichii Rop of Bahrain.
Al-Garni shaved more than 12 seconds off the 20-year-old Asian Games record and more than a minute off his personal best, crossing the line in 13 minutes, 26.13 seconds.
Rop, who switched from his native Kenya last year, could only manage bronze behind team-mate Alemu Bekele Gebre, originally from Ethiopia.
The 20-year-old Mohammed’s winning time of 31 minutes, 51.86 seconds was the fastest of her career and she will go into Thursday’s 5,000m full of confidence.
Numerous athletes from distance running powers Ethiopia and Kenya have switched to Gulf states in recent years, particularly Bahrain and Qatar.
At the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, Bahrain and Qatar dominated the men’s long-distance track events, taking all six medals on offer in the 5,000m and 10,000m.
All six medallists were born in Africa, highlighting the controversy over athletes switching to run under the flag of a borrowed nationality.