A group of eight athletes and coaches arrived last night to the George Best Belfast City airport for a three week Pre-Olympic Games Training Camp. Athletes from Qatar, Oman, Djbouti and Egypt arrived from Stockholm via Heathrow and were greeted by the Mayor of Antrim, Councillor Roy Thompson and Sport NI’s Performance Consultant Marc Scott along with members from governing body Athletics Northern Ireland who are coordinating the camp.
Accompanying the athletes is head coach Jama Aden. Awarded the IAAF Middle-Distance Coach of the year in 2008, Aden has been and still is responsible for developing some of the world’s top endurance athletes including possible London 2012 medal prospects Ayanteh Soulieman (Djbouti) who arrived last night and Abubaker Kaki (Sudan) who will arrive later in the week after competing in Monaco at the Diamond League on Friday 20th.
Soulieman has a 1500m time of 3.30.31 set in May this year at Hengelo in Holland. He was also placed 5th in the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul in March this year and is a great prospect for making the 1500m final in London where anything can happen.
Man of the moment Hamsa Driouch (Qatar) is coming straight from Barcelona to Northern Ireland where he took Gold in the 1500m in 3.39.04. Although in front after 800, Driouch really took charge of the race with two laps remaining when he powered away from the pack and gradually opened up an uncatchable lead to claim Qatar’s fifth Championships and first ever 1500 metres gold medal.
He is joined by teammate Musaeb Balla who is an 800m runner with a best time of 1.45.19 set in Doha in May this year and two athletes from Oman, 400m runner Ahmed Almirjabi and 100m sprinter Barakat Alharathi. Hamada Mohamed (Egypt) has a 800m best of 1.44.98, a 1500m best of 3.38.16 and competed in the World Junior Championships in 2010 in Canada in the 1500m.
Further teams from Somalia, Sudan and Algeria will join the rest of their training group later in the week. Abubaker Kaki is the main attraction as he is the World Championship silver medallist at 800m in 2001 (Daegu) and World Indoor Champion at 800m in 2012. He has run the fifth fastest 800m time ever (1.43.23) and is a major prospect for a medal in London. He represented Sudan at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
The Sports Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín welcomed the athletes saying: “Following on from the success of the boxing and gymnastics training camps, it is now wonderful to welcome athletes from Qatar, Djbouti, Oman, Egypt, Sudan, Algeria and Somalia to the Antrim Forum. I hope our tremendous facilities and warm welcome set all of our visitors in good stead for their participation in the 2012 Games. Best of luck to all of you over the coming weeks.”
Dominic Walsh, Chair of Sport Northern Ireland, commented: “Sport Northern Ireland is delighted that athletes from Qatar, Djbouti, Oman, Egypt, Sudan, Algeria and Somalia have chosen Antrim as a training base before the Games and I would like to offer them all a very warm welcome. Having such high calibre athletes training for the Olympics right on our doorstep is a great boost, particularly to our young aspiring athletes. On behalf of Sport Northern Ireland, I wish all of the athletes the best of luck for the 2012 Games.”
A number of the athletes will compete at the ‘Brian Downing Memorial International’ on Wednesday 18th July at the Antrim Stadium (7pm). Local athletes will have an opportunity to compete against some of the best in the world along with invited athletes from Latvia, St. Kitts & Nevis, England, Scotland and Ireland.