By Anil John/Jakarta
Very few have watched sport in Qatar as closely as Joachim Krug. The former indoor shot put champion from Germany landed in Doha 36 years ago with just “a few sports clothes, a couple of T-shirts and sports shoes” — as he himself put it during an interview last year — and since then has been a part of the country’s evolution, especially as a nation that has put sport on the forefront of its grand national vision for the future.
He had come to Qatar to take up the position as a throwing coach with the national athletics federation in 1982 and has taken pride in every honour the country has won on the international stage. With the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang beginning tomorrow, Krug is hoping to experience a few more highs with Qatar, which he proudly calls his second home.
“We have some very good athletes in our team and as usual we expect to win most of our medals from track and field. I don’t want to make any predictions but we hope to win quite a few,” Krug told Gulf Times at the Athletes Village in Jakarta yesterday.
At the last Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, Qatar won 10 gold medals, of which six came from athletics, two from shooting and one each from handball and equestrianism.
Femi Ogunode, who won the 100 and 200m sprint double and Mohamed al-Garni, who claimed the 1500m and 5000m titles in 2014 are not part of the current squad and so is the case with world champion high jumper Mutaz Barshim, who is recovering from surgery after hurting his ankle while going for Javier Sotomayor’s 25-year-old world record of 2.45m last month.
Krug said the presence of Barshim would have been great for the entire team’s morale but injuries are part and parcel of sport, and every top athlete has to deal with such setbacks during his or her career.
“It’s very unfortunate that Barshim got injured ahead the Asian Games. This happens in sport, especially at the highest level, and mind you Barshim is at the highest level possible. He is now recovering and we hope he gets fully fit especially with Qatar hosting the IAAF World Championships next year,” Krug, the technical secretary at the Qatar Athletics Federation, said.
He added: “Al-Garni has retired and Femi is also not here for personal reasons. But Femi’s younger brother, Tosin, will be running the 100 and 200m. He had clocked some encouraging times recently and we hope he will make a mark in Indonesia.”
A gold for Samba in the 400m hurdles is almost a certainty going by his sensational exploits in the Diamond League this season where he upstaged Norwegian world and European champion Karsten Warholm, while javelin thrower Ahmed Bedeir, hammer thrower Ashraf Elseify and high jumper Hamdi al-Amin are also expected to do well.
“Every event is different. This time several of them from the 2014 squad are missing for various reasons and therefore we have a very young team. But we have been preparing very well for the Games and all of them have attended special training camps.
“The sprinters had a camp in Bulgaria, the jumpers in Sweden, the middle and long distance runners in Switzerland, for example. They are arriving in Jakarta from different places and those already here have hit the ground training. The Games are a great occasion for them to showcase their talents.”
Krug added that Samba won’t figure in the 400m flat although he had experimented with it during a few events in Europe.
“Mohamed Abbas and Abdelelah Haroun are both running the 400m flat and rules don’t permit more than two athletes in one discipline.
“Apart from Samba and Haroun, we also expect medals in the 4x400m relay, the steeple chase, the 800m, 5000m and the steeplechase.”
Another high-jumper, Rashid al-Mannai, has now moved on to the triple jump and is also part of the squad.
“He was a good high jumper but wants to do the triple jump. Some athletes like to move on and explore new things.”
The track and field competitions begin on August 25.
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