Middle-distance runner Musaab Abdulrahman Balla will make sporting history later today when he becomes the first Qatari athlete to compete in a final at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships.
Balla qualified for the final after coming in second in the second heat of the 800m semi-finals at the National Stadium in Beijing on Sunday with a time of 1 min, 47.93 seconds, just behind Kenya’s David Rudisha (1:47.70).
He caused a stir when he ran past Botswana’s Nijel Amos, who took silver in the 2012 London Olympics, to get through to the final.
Sudanese-born Balla, 26, will be up against tough competition when he runs in today’s final, which will start at 3.55pm Qatar time (8.55pm in Beijing) and will be in the same venue, nicknamed the Bird’s Nest, which hosted the 2008 Olympic games.
In 2012, Rudisha took gold in the 800m race, setting a world record with his time of 1:40.91, while Balla’s personal best for the same distance was 1:43.82 in Barcelona last month.
At the time, Lord Sebastian Coe said Rudisha was “the most impressive track and field athlete at these Games,” BBC Sport reported.
Balla will race in lane 9 today, wearing bib number 825. His competitors are:
- Alfred Kipketer, Kenya (lane 2);
- Nader Belhanbel, Morocco (lane 3);
- Amel Tuka, Bosnia-Herzegovina (lane 4);
- David Lekuta Rudisha, Kenya (lane 5);
- Adam Kszczot, Poland (lane 6);
- Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich, Kenya (land 7); and
- Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, France (lane 8).
Balla’s previous achievements include taking gold in the 800m at the 2013 Asian Championships in India, while he came in third place for the same distance at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.
While he scooped gold at the Asian Championships in Wuhan, China earlier this year, his fifth appearance at the Doha Diamond league in May this year was less successful as Balla came in eighth place, Doha Stadium Plus reported.
Qatar is keen to prove its emerging sporting mettle to the world, after securing hosting rights to the 2019 World Championships in athletics late last year.
One of the world’s largest international sporting events, it runs for just over a week and features event like sprints, a marathon, high jump and javelin throwing, among others.
When it comes to Qatar after London in 2017, the actual events will be centered around Khalifa International Stadium, which is currently being renovated, while the IAAF Congress will be held at the Qatar National Convention Center.
In addition to Balla, other homegrown sporting stars include Olympic bronze medalist and world silver medalist highjumper Mutaz Barshim and hurdler Mariam Farid.
Sprinter Femi Ogunode, who has won gold four times in Asian games, is another of Qatar’s up-and-coming athletes.