Talented sprinter Ali al Balushi brought in an air of fresh hope as he clocked a personal-best time to advance to stage two of the 200m event at the third Youth Olympic Games (YOG), currently under way in Buenos Aires in Argentina on Saturday.
Competing in the stage one heat, the 16 year old won the race in a time of 21.63 seconds.
Despite an average reaction of 0.163s to the starting gun, Ali managed to push himself hard to defeat Denmark’s Tazana Kamanga for the heat win.
Kamanga timed 21.68s and edged past Brazil’s Lucas Vilar Conceicao in a photo-finish.
Following the conclusion of the three heats featuring 23 athletes, the fastest eight athletes progressed to stage two of the event, scheduled to be held on Tuesday. Ali qualified as the third-best qualifier with Qatar’s Mohamed Abdelaziz topping the qualifiers with a time of 21.10s followed by Jamaican Antonio Watson with 21.33s.
Ali’s progression is the best performance among the five participating Omanis at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.
While the two swimmers – Lara al Yafei and Shihab Alaa Din Rizq Fayez – concluded their campaign on Thursday with first-round exits in their respective events, Mohammed al Balushi finished overall 21st among 24 sailors in the Techno 293+ windsurfing class on Friday.
Lara’s participation at the YOG, however, was a major breakthrough for Oman Olympic Committee (OOC) and Oman Swimming Association (OSA) as it is the first time that an Omani girl swimmer had represented the country at an international competition. Lara participated in the 50m freestyle and 50m breaststroke events.
For 16 year old Shihab, a student of Al Seeb International School, the fact that he could make it to the YOG despite a horrible bike crash, months ahead of the event, was a remarkable achievement in itself as he managed to compete in both 50m and 100m freestyle heats.
The other participating athlete, Mohammed al Suleimani, got injured during his 2,000m steeplechase event, and failed to finish the race. He will hope to conclude his campaign on a positive note when he takes part in the stage two of the event – cross-country – on Monday.
Meanwhile, speaking about Balushi’s 21st overall finish in the Techno 293+, windsurfing coach Sultan al Balushi said, “At 15, Mohammed was one of the youngest sailors competing in the fleet. We knew that it would be a stern test for him.
Mohammed displayed his determination and character with a 12th place in the first race, which showed that he has the skills to compete at the highest level.
“Overall, the experience he has gained by taking part in the Youth Olympic Games is priceless and counts for much more than his final finish. There is no substitute for sailing and racing at this level.”