Asia’s finest youth athletes, the continent’s hottest prospects who could lead Asian athletics to a new blooming era, will soon take the spotlight in their first chapter towards a promising international career.
Doha is ready to play host to the inaugural Asian Athletics competition for Youths and to welcome – as calculated up till now- more than 400 athletes and additionally more than 170 officials, coaches and medical staff from 40 countries –still 5 countries whose data have to be verified- for four days of action, starting on May 8, at the Qatar Sports Club stadium.
“We are proud to host yet another significant sporting event in Qatar. We have done whatever it takes to ensure that the 1st Asian Youth Athletics Championships will be successful and will pave the way for the development of Sport, especially for the young generation,” said the newly re-elected President of the Asian Athletics Association (AAA) General Dahlan Al Hamad at a press conference held in Doha on April 28.
One of the President’s main aspirations and concerns since he was first elected to the helm of AAA in 2013 was to do everything that is required to further enhance the development of Athletics from its grassroots not only in Qatar, but in the wider Asian continent.
“Our strategic approach is to boost Athletics and explore ways to encourage the youth in participating in sporting activities all across Asia. Our focus is on the long-term planning and the development of Sport.
“We have worked hard, hand in hand with our trusted partners at IAAF and the National Athletics Federations in order to deliver an exciting first edition of the Asian Youth Athletics Championships,” cited General Al Hamad.
Global Youth competitions in athletics have started only recently, although at regional level the Americans are considered the pioneers with the first ever South America Youth Championships held in 1973. Central America joined in 1975 with a joint-event along with Juniors. Oceania followed in 1993, Africa came next only recently in 2013, while Europe will start the series next year in Tbilisi, Georgia.
IAAF introduced the World Youth Championships in 1999 and thus far the pinnacle global competition for Youths has only been staged in Europe, Africa and America. 13 Asian nations have won 117 medals (39 gold – 40 silver – 38 bronze), with China being the most successful among Asians with 22-17-8. Qatar is ranked second with 4-4-2. Furthermore, Asian athletes from eight different countries won at least one medal at the 2010 and 2014 Youth Olympic Games, held both in Asia (Singapore and Nanjing). The Chinese even topped the medal standings in 2014 with six gold and a bronze. In all Asians seized 10 gold, 14 silver and seven bronze medals at both Games.
To no one’s surprise China will send the largest contingent to Doha for the 1st Asian Youth Athletics Championships, with 48 athletes and 15 officials. Oman features the second largest delegation with 30 athletes, ahead of India (26), Kazakhstan (25) and hosting nation Qatar (19).
The Championships will commence on Friday 8 May at 8 o’clock in the morning with the Boy’s Decathlon 100m, but will officially kick-off later that day at 17:30 with the opening ceremony. All disciplines, including the walking events, will be staged at the Suhaim Bin Hamad Stadium, the home venue of Qatar Sports Club. Only athletes born in 1998 and 1999 are eligible to compete. Every athlete may enter up to two individual events plus the relay and each country may register up to two athletes per event. Only the host nation holds the right to take part with a third athlete per discipline.
President Dahlan is convinced the 1st Asian Youth Championships, held only a week ahead of the IAAF Diamond League Doha 2015 in the same venue, will be a benchmark event for the development of athletics in Asia and sends an invitation to all Doha residents to embrace the initiative and boost the efforts of the young athletes with their presence and voice of encouragement:
“It is an honour and privilege, as President of the Asian Athletics Association, to fully embrace our motto: “Together moving forward”. In a few days’ time, young athletes from 35 countries from all across Asia will compete right here in Doha. I invite all friends of Sport to come to the Stadium from May 8 to 11, cheer for the athletes participating and see the stars of tomorrow making their first steps towards sporting excellence.”
Apart for the medal ceremony for the top three finishers per event, a diploma will be handed to athletes ranked in places 4-8.