Leading the Moroccan assault was Ahmed Tamri as he won the Elite Non-Resident Male category in a time of 29.44 minutes, the only runner to clock under 30 minutes.
Samir Jouaher led a clean sweep for Morocco in the Men’s Open category run in a time of 30.23 minutes, while compatriots Anouar Al Ghouz (30.23) and Brahim Slimani (30.42) occupied the next two steps on the podium.
“Morocco is known for its long distance runners, so our challenge was to ensure we were there battling for the top spots tonight,” Tamri said after the race.
“Considering that there were quality runners from so many different countries we had to stick around each other to make sure one of us could break through when the time was right.”
Matching the Moroccan performances in the Elite Non-Resident Females’ category were runners from Ethiopia as they made a clean sweep of the podium spots. Berhe Hafte won in 30.22 minutes, followed by Demiesa Berhan (35.30) and Aregawi Berhan (35.31).
“The most important part was to get a good start and set the right pace especially at the beginning. I think we managed very well in backing each other and that proved to be the strong point of our success for Ethiopia,” said Hafte.
There was a surprise in the Women’s Open category as Anne Mari Hyrylainen finished on top with the fastest time of 35.50 minutes. The Finn, who has already qualified for the marathon race at this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics, was pleased with her form.
“I knew that I had to set my own pace and run my own race. And that is exactly what I did as I broke away early in the race,” said Hyrylainen.
The race for Elite Emirati runners was won by Mubarak Rashid Hassan Al Marashda with a time of 32 minutes and 37 seconds, leaving Obaid Mohammed Al Nuaimi in second (32:43) and Khalifa Mohammed Obaid Al Nuaimi (33.22) third.
Tournament director Hassan Al Mazrouei presented the medals and trophies to the winners after races in all five divisions.
The three-week long sporting extravaganza, which offers a total prize fund of Dh8 million, is sponsored by Land Rover, Al Tayer Motors, RTA, Emaar, Emirates Airlines, Al Naboodah, Ahmed Siddiqui & Sons and Arabian Automobiles.
It has been a whirlwind year for Shelton D’Costa, who has gone from teaching PE at Cambridge International School Dubai to representing India at international athletics events in Singapore, Sri Lanka and Australia, alongside his teaching commitments.
The 44-year-old former university star gave up competing when he became a teacher but kept in shape and last year was persuaded by a friend to join the Masters Athletics circuit – an international competition for senior athletes.
The move bore fruit almost immediately when D’Costa came third at the Indian trials with very little training, before setting a national record in Sri Lanka.
“I went back home, took a big chart out and planned my new training regime for two or three hours,” the burly six-footer said of his decision to start training properly again. “The same day I enrolled myself to a gym and started my training.
“Weight-training is crucial for throwing events like mine as there is a misconception that we throw with our hands, but really the power comes from our body. Therefore I had to do a lot of squats in order to get my legs back in shape.”
Due to the relatively small attendances at these events and limited sponsorship opportunities, athletes have to cover their own travel costs (along with all other expenses) and D’Costa was quick to pay tribute the GEMS Group, and Cambridge International School principal Craig Lamshed for assisting him.
“On my own I probably wouldn’t have even made it to Australia,” D’Costa told Sport360. “It was peak season and the tickets would have been more than my salary!
“The support I get is unbelievable and I cannot thank GEMS enough.”
D’Costa has now set his sights on is a gold medal at the World Championships and if his current rate of progress continues alongside some luck with injuries, his ambitions seem well within reach.
Alia Saeed and Betlhem Belayneh have a busy schedule ahead of them as the Emirati runners prepare for the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Saeed’s timing of 31:10.25, which she ran in the 10,000m at the Dubai President’s Cup last month, is the second fastest time in the world this year, although it should be noted that many athletes are just getting their season started.
The reigning Asian champion is set to compete in the 5,000m in a meet in Nancy, France, in June before returning to her training base in Barcelona, where she will stay until the end of the month.
Saeed will then run a 10,000m in Sweden on June 28, in a meet that is expected to feature world and Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba.
Two meets in Barcelona in July could potentially pit Saeed against the younger Dibaba, Genzebe, before heading to the Rio Olympics in August.
Saeed trains regularly with Genzebe in both Addis Ababa and Barcelona. Saeed, who turns 25 next week, is also scheduled to compete in the Brussels leg of the Diamond League post-Olympics on September 9.
Meanwhile, 1,500m and 5,000m Asian champion, Belayneh – nicknamed Betty – will pick up her Rio preparations by contesting the IAAF World Challenge in Beijing on May 18, before returning to Barcelona for training until the Diamond League in Stockholm on June 16.
A 5,000m in Barcelona and a 3,000m in Casablanca will round off her prep before she flies to Rio.
Betty’s 8:44 run in the 3,000m from February 2016 is the fourth-fastest time run this year indoors.
Elsewhere, Al Ahli Club honoured its track and field squad for sweeping all domestic titles this season – the zonal league, the nation-wide league and the President’s Cup. In a ceremony, club CEO Ahmed Khalifa Hammad applauded the stars for bringing home the silverware.
“What our track and field teams achieved is a natural extension to all the accolades won by all our squads in every sport,” said Hammad. “Unlike other clubs that solely focus on football, Al Ahli gives attention to all disciplines.”