He may have missed a medal at the third Youth Olympic Games currently underway in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but the young Oman sprinter, Ali al Balushi, will return home with his head high after bettering his personal best times twice in a span of three days.
The 16 year old talent, a find of the Ministry of Sports Affairs’ Youth Training Centre, clocked his personal-best time of 21.36s to finish sixth in stage two (heat three) and overall eighth in stage two for a final sixth rank with a combined time of 42.99s among 23 athletes from across the world.
Earlier on Saturday, Ali had won his stage one (heat one) race with a career-best time of 21.63s to finish overall third among the qualifiers. On Tuesday, Ali bettered that timing significantly to post 21.36s.
Qatar’s Mohamed Abdelaziz won the gold after running a personal-best time of 20.68s for a combined total of 41.78s while Jamaican Antonio Watson took silver despite finishing third in stage two with a combined total of 42.41. Brazil’s Lucas Vilar Conceicao took the bronze (42.67s) after finishing second in stage two with a personal-best of 20.99s.
With Ali’s exit, Oman’s campaign at the YOG came to a conclusion with his other teammate in athletics, Mohammed al Suleimani, ruled out of his event due to injury. Suleimani was to take part in the 2,000m steeplechase and men’s cross-country but an injury during a training session ruled him out of the cross-country event on Monday after failing to finish his steeplechase run.
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 was the first time that an Omani girl swimmer had represented the country at an international competition. The Muscat-based Lara participated in the 50m freestyle and 50m breaststroke events.