By Dana Abu Naaj, Doha, April 7, 2019: Several world and Asian champions will go head-to-head in Doha in two weeks’ time to compete for top honours in Asian athletics when Khalifa International Stadium hosts the 23rd Asian Athletics Championships from 21 to 24 April.
Nearly 700 elite Asian athletes from 44 nations will be competing for 186 medals in 21 men’s events, 21 women’s events, and a mixed relay event that makes its debut in the Asian athletics showpiece.
As the competition brings together the usual Asian powerhouses in athletics, China is set to go all the way in attempts to maintain its continental dominance and reclaim the top position that India won in the previous edition.
China’s ranks at the 23rd Asian Athletics Championships boast female shot putter Gong Lijiao, a 2017 World Championships gold medallist and two-time Olympic medallist, and Li Ling, Asian Games champion in 2014 and 2018 in pole vault.
Lu Huihui, a two-time world medallist in javelin throw; Chen Yang, Asian Games title holder in discus throw; and Wang Chunyu, the Asian Games reigning champion in 800 metres, will all feature at Khalifa International Stadium.
On the men’s side of athletes, China’s team includes the likes of Xie Wenjun, Asian Games champion in 2014 and 2018 in 100m hurdles, who will be looking to maintain his continental dominance.
China’s path to the top place will not be easy though as the team are likely to face strong competition from other elite athletes taking part in the event.
Hosts Qatar will be aiming to finish as high as possible in the competition’s medal table, and they have the personnel to back that bid up.
Qatar’s two-time Olympic medallist Mutaz Barshim will lead a line-up of 29 athletes representing the home nation in the Asian showpiece.
The 27-year-old high jumper, who holds the Asian record and the third-best world record, is fit again after suffering an injury last year.
“Our athletes are ready to make the country proud.
We prepared well for this competition and we realize how great an opportunity it is to build on our success at the Asian Games and brace ourselves for the World Championships in September,” said Qatar Athletics Federation President Dr. Thani Abdulrahman Al Kuwari.
India’s 19-year-old sensation Dima Has will try to build on her performance from the 2018 Asian Games where she won a gold medal in the 4x400m event.
The promising sprinter is also the reigning world U20 champion in 400m.
Mohammad Anas Yahiya is another Indian athlete with potential to reach the podium.
The sprinter, who specialises in 400m, claimed three silver medals in last year’s Asian Games in the individual 400m, men’s 4x400m and the mixed 4×400.
We are expecting a similar show from our Athletes as was in 2017 where India topped the overall medals tally with a total of 29 medals.
This time too we are expecting to win between 25 to 30 medals,” said Athletics Federation of India President Adille J. Sumariwalla.
With a huge Indian expat community based in Doha, the Indian team will be counting on their compatriots to gain a home advantage in bid to retain their title.
“We expect Indians staying in Qatar to turn up in big numbers to support Indian athletes.
“Our message to Indian expats in Qatar is: We need you; we want you to fill up the stadium and we wish to see Indian Tri-Color flying high everywhere. Please come and watch athletics and support your team,” Sumariwalla added.
Among the top athletes featuring in the competition as well is Syria’s Majd Eddin Ghazal.
The high jumper, who celebrates his 32nd birthday on the opening day of the competition, is a bronze medallist in World Championships London 2017 and Asian Athletics Championships Bhubaneswar 2017.
Hossein Keyhani is another athlete who will be looking to build on his recent successes.
The Iranian runner secured gold medal in the 3000m steeplechase event at the Asian Games 2018, which he followed on from winning the same race in the Asian Indoor Championships.
All major operations, including the venue, transport and accommodation, are set to be trialled during the Asian competition to ensure a smooth and spotless experience during the global showpiece in less than six months.