Barakat, Fatma to carry Oman hopes
Ace sprinter Barakat al Harthi and tennis star Fatma al Nabhani will spearhead Oman's challenge at the fifth Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, which will be held in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat from September 17-27.
The Oman Olympic Committee (OOC) had decided to send teams in only two disciplines at the Games – athletics and tennis – this time and is hopeful that Barakat and Fatma can fetch medals for the sultanate.
A five-member squad was announced recently with Barakat and Ahmed al Saadi to compete in athletics while Fatma will be joined by Balushi sisters – Sarah and Maryam – in tennis.
Despite the small contingent, expectations are high from Barakat, who was given a longer period of training for the Games. In fact, the Oman Athletics
Association (OAA) had opted to nominate Mohammed al Saadi in the 200m for the IAAF World Championships in London last month ahead of Barakat.
OAA general secretary Jahad al Sheikh said, “We are hopeful that Barakat will be on the podium in the 60m indoor race. He has trained hard and prepared well for the Games.”
The 29 year old Barakat is a gold medal winner in 60m at the 2016 Asian Beach Games in Danag, Vietnam and a former 2010 Asian Games 100m bronze medallist in Guangzhou, China.
Barakat's teammate Saadi will be competing in the 400m event. A bronze medallist at the Asian indoor meet in 2014, Saadi won a silver earlier this year at the GCC championships.
The 26 year old Fatma has been showing flashes of brilliance on the ITF circuit recently and had won her first title of the year in Las Palmas, Spain last month. Teaming up with Spanish girl Arabela Fernandez Rabener, Fatma won the doubles crown in the US$15,000 event. However, last week playing in the US$15,000 event in Cairo, Egypt, she made an early exit in the singles and gave a walkover in the doubles quarterfinals.
Fatma will be joined by 17 year old Maryam and her elder sister Sarah for the singles and doubles events. Both Fatma and Sarah are regular partners at Arab and GCC championships.
More than 6,000 athletes from 65 countries are taking part in 21 sports at the Games with the opening ceremony scheduled to be held on Sunday. The Games gets underway on September 16 with two early medal events (traditional wrestling and ju-jitsu). Besides the 45 Asian teams, there are 19 teams from Oceania, as well as one refugee team competing under the Olympic banner.