Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Ethiopian Diaspora Contribution: Zenebech Tola of Ethiopia leads the Bahrain 29th Olympiad as Mariam Yusuf

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Successful WAF title defense for Jamal in Stuttgart 2006 (Getty Images)

relnews World 1500m champion Maryam Yusuf Jamal will lead a squad of 12 athletes who will represent Bahrain at the 29th Olympic Games in Beijing.

Former World 800m/1500m double champion Rashid Ramzi has been named to contest both the 1500m and 5000m this year, while World indoor 800m bronze medallist Yusuf Saad Kamel and Belal Mansoor Ali are the country’s other medal hopes.

WOMEN- Jamal the undoubted star

But there is no doubt as to who is the head of the Bahraini challenge in the Beijing Olympics.

With her victory in last year’s World championship, 24-year old Jamal opened a new chapter in Bahraini athletics by becoming the first female athlete to win a World title in any sport.

In contrast to her strong finish to the 2007 season, Jamal has endured a mixed season this year. Although she smashed the Asian indoor 1500m mark in Valencia, Spain in March, Jamal could only finish fourth in the World indoor championships.

But the former Ethiopian has shown signs that she is ready to bounce back from her disappointments this year with 1500m victories in Athens and Paris coming at the end of an illness-induced absence from competition in mid June.

Jamal will be joined on the women’s team by Ruqaya Al Gassra, the 2006 Games and the Asian indoor 60m champion, who is Asia’s faster this year. Al Gassra, who is a devout Muslim and famous for wearing a hijab during competition, will compete in the 200m.

Nadia Ejjafini, the Moroccan-born distance runner, will take part in the mMarathon.

MEN- Ramzi back in action, but Kamel is also genuine medal hope

Bahrain will also send a strong men’s team comprised of nine athletes with former world 800m/1500m champion Rashid Ramzi the most recognizable athlete.

A runner known for saving his best for major championships, Ramzi has again raced sporadically this year looking to focus on recapturing glory on the bigger occasions. His last two major championship performances - World 1500m silver and fifth in the World indoor championships 1500m final- indicate that he could be a force to be reckoned with in Beijing.

While Ramzi brings experience to Bahrain’s challenge in Beijing, Yusuf Saad Kamel is the athlete in form on the men’s squad. The World indoor bronze medallist is the joint second fastest this season over the 800m behind Sudanese teenage wunderkind Abubaker Kaki and Russia’s Yuriy Borzakovsky, who was also timed in 1:42.79 with Kamel in Monaco ten days ago.

Son of Kenya’s former World 800m champion Billy Konchellah and born Gregory Konchellah in Kenya, Kamel hopes to do better than his last major championship outdoor appearance. He could not get past the semifinals in the Osaka World championships and hopes to do better this time around.

Bahrain’s team for Beijing

Women- Maryam Yusuf Jamal (1500 m), Ruqaya Al Gassra (200m), and Nadia Ejjafini (Marathon)

Men- Rashid Ramzi (1500m, 5000m), Youssef Saad Kamel (800m), Tareq Mubarak Taher (3000m SC), Belal Mansoor Ali (1500m, 800m), Hassan Mahboob (5000m, 10000m), Adam Ismaeel Khamis (5000 m), Reyadh Mustafa (Marathon), Abdulhak Zakariya (Marathon), and Stephen Kamara (Marathon)

Elshadai Negash for the IAAF

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