More than two dozen Qatari athletes will compete alongside 450 men and women from 37 other countries to take home a medal in the seventh Asian Indoor Athletics Championships, which takes place in Doha this weekend.
The three-day Asian Athletics Association (AAA) tournament opens today (Friday) and runs until Feb. 21.
During the competition, more than 70 races will be held at the Aspire Dome in Al Waab.
Olympic high-jump bronze medal winner Mutaz Barshim will be among the 28 athletes representing Qatar in the event, alongside middle-distance runner Musaeb Abdulrahman Balla.
Meanwhile, teenager hurdler and runner Mariam Farid will be one of five female athletes on the Qatar team, and among 115 women who take part in 13 different disciplines in the championships, organizers said in a statement.
What’s on and when
Today starts off with initial heats of men’s and women’s 60m and 400m races, beginning at 9am and running until 11am, according to the schedule.
Following a mid-day break, the opening ceremony is set for 4:50pm, with male and female students’ 4x200m relay races scheduled from 5:45pm and women’s shot put at 6:10pm.
Barshim, 24, will be one of the main draws at the event, and hopes are high that he will beat his existing indoor high-jump record of 2.41m.
Some said he may even challenge his outdoor best of 2.43m (more than 8 feet) which he set during the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels in 2014.
That feat, which made him the second-highest jumper of all time, sparked a social media meme in which commenters used photoshop to demonstrate the scale of his prowess, under the hashtag #ThingsBarshimCouldJumpOver.
Ahead of this weekend’s event, Barshim tweeted another version of the meme, showing his record-jump compared to an NBA basketball dunk.
— معتز برشم ♕Barshim (@mutazbarshim) February 17, 2016
Barshim is also under pressure to challenge the long-standing world record 2.45m, set by Cuban Javier Sotomayor in 1993.
Musaeb Balla is another notable Qatari athlete who will be competing in the 800m, the final for which is on Sunday at 5:15pm.
Balla came in fifth at the world championships in Beijing last summer and was named the fastest Asian this season with a time of 1:46.79.
Meanwhile, two Qatari sprinters, Samuel Francis and Tosin Ogunode, will be battling for the top two places in the 60m events.
Francis, who is favored to take the gold, will be aiming for his fourth title after winning in 2008, 2010 and 2014.
Teammate Ogunode, whose older brother Femi Ogunode also runs for Qatar, is set to challenge him with his time of 6.66 for the distance so far this season.
Other Qatari male athletes to watch out for include middle distance runner Mohamed Al Garni, who will compete in the 1,500m event on Saturday and the 3,000m race on Sunday.
And 19-year-old 400m runner Abdellelah Haroun Hassan, who is the Asian record holder in the event both indoors (45.39) and outdoors (44.27), will also be hoping to take a medal this weekend.
Women to watch
In the women’s events, one of Qatar’s stars will be upcoming track-and-field star Mariam Farid.
Just 17, Farid will be competing in the 4×400 meter relay, which is scheduled for Saturday night.
She’ll be joined by pentathlete Fatemah Sassanipoor, sprinter Bashair Obaid Almanwari and 400 meter-runner Dalal Mesfer Al Harith.
Qatar’s fifth team member is Sara Ahmed Al Mannai, who will compete in the shot put.