14:18 MECCA TIME, 11:18 GMT
Olympic dreams for Al Ghasara
By Chris Wang in Doha

Ruqaya Al Ghasara set a new record when winning
the 60m at the Asian Indoors in Doha [Al Jazeera]

Ruqaya Al Ghasara couldn't stop smiling. She had just won gold in the 60m event at the 3rd Asian Indoor Championships in Doha, and after a frustrating year with injury, the Bahraini sprinter could finally set her sights on the Beijing Olympics.
Al Ghasara, famous for winning the 200m at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha and for running in a body-covering suit and hijab in accordance with Islamic dress principles, had a recurring hamstring ailment in 2007 which caused her absence at some key events.


She missed the IAAF World Championships in Osaka in August and the 2nd Asian Indoor Games in Macau in October, putting pressure on her preparation going into an Olympic year.

However in her first appearance of 2008, Al Ghasara set two championship records and picked up a gold medal on the opening night to kick-start her Olympics campaign, with coach Noureddine Tadjne equally excited as his protégé.

"I thank God for this achievement. I am very, very happy with this win."

Ruqaya Al Ghasara
on her 60m victory in Doha

"It's big for us, because last year Ruqaya endured a hamstring injury two times," Noureddine told Al Jazeera.

"The first was in July before the world championships when she had the chance to reach the finals and possibly to get a medal in the 200m.

"After the injury we did physiotherapy for two months and then she prepared for Macau.

"Two days before leaving for Macau she suffered the same injury while training. It's very difficult when you get the same injury the second time."

Record breaking night

Al Ghasara, who won silver in the 60m, 200m and 400m at the inaugural Asian Indoor Championships in Tehran in 2004, set her first record of the night when winning her 400m heat in 54.12 seconds, bettering the mark of 54.46 set by Tatyana Roslanova of Kazakhstan in 2004.

The 25-year-old, who was the first Bahrain-born female athlete to win a major international athletics gold medal, then backed up in the 60m final and blitzed the field after a slow start, winning in 7.40 seconds.

Al Ghasara has competed over many distances,
but the 200m is her pet event [Al Jazeera]

This was her second championship record in a matter of hours, narrowly eclipsing the previous best of 7.41 set by China's Zhu Yingting in 2004.

"I thank God for this achievement. I am very, very happy with this win," a beaming Al Ghasara said after the race.

"It's the first competition for me this year, because last year I had an injury in my leg.

"God willing, I will go to Valencia for the World Indoor Championships."

Coach Noureddine agreed that the 12th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Valencia next month could be the next stepping stone for Al Ghasara on the way to Beijing.

"This competition wasn't really her objective," the trainer said of the Doha meet.

"I think, because she ran a great 400 semi-final today, that maybe she can run the 400 at the World Championships in Spain.

"The main objective is the Olympic Games."

Living the dream

"She is very strong in the 200m and she can, God willing, run a good time."

Noureddine Tadjne,
Al Ghasara's coach

For the Games of the 29th Olympiad, Al Ghasara plans to compete in the 100m and 200m. She will try to improve on her Athens 2004 showing of a first round exit in the 100m heats, although the 200m will be her main focus this time around.

"I have qualified for the 100m and 200m in the Olympics," said Al Ghasara.

"My favourite event is the 200m, I like it the best."

After Doha, Noureddine had planned a month-long training camp in South Africa for Al Ghasara, but with the Valencia indoor meet now on the cards her schedule leading into Beijing may change.

"She has worked hard and has had no rest," Noureddine said.

"She is very strong in the 200m and she can, God willing, run a good time."

Al Ghasara was set to compete in the final of the 400m on day two of the Asian Indoors in Doha, but one feels that the result will mean little as long as she comes through the event injury free, and with the added race experience.

All eyes will turn to the track and field come the second week of the Olympics in August, with many looking out for the trademark headscarf and red body-suit of Ruqaya Al Ghasara as she lives her Olympic dream.

Source: Al Jazeera
Glory for Al Ghasara  
(11 Dec 2006)
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