First class coaching and competition in Abu Dhabi as Ultimate Athletics youngsters impress

Nick Watkins 10/03/2018
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Dream catcher: Celina Farrell in action

The region’s top young athletes competed in an eventful night of track and field events, as Ultimate Athletics made its way to the New York University (NYU), Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi. The evening showcased the best of upcoming athletes in the UAE, with both junior and senior competition.

Celina Farrell, a 12-year-old from American International School Abu Dhabi, trains in the evening at the NYU Abu Dhabi and enjoyed great success on the track. “I enjoy running, but my favourite event is actually the high jump, I feel like flying and it doesn’t take as much energy to jump than it does to run”, she told Sport 360. Despite favouring the field event, Farrell, whose Olympic hero is Usain Bolt, won each of her three races – the 80 metres, 150 metres and 300 metres.

Teacher-turned-coach Lisa Campbell, who began Ultimate Athletics in 2015, organised the evening and said demand has never been greater for track and field in the UAE. “I stopped teaching to focus full-time on coaching athletics and now we’ve grown to over 600 members in three years”, she commented. In fact, demand has grown so much Campbell now employs three full-time coaches and fifteen part-time coaches to help her out, “it’s a joint effort, there’s no ‘I’ in team”, she added.

On track: Kimbely Baptiste

On track: Kimbely Baptiste

PE teacher Kimbely Baptiste, 25, dominated the senior 100 and 200 metre events while barely breaking a sweat. She took gold in the mixed 100 metres with a time of 11.91 seconds and clocked a cool 24.99 seconds in the 200m. Speaking before the 200 metre race she said, “The aim is just to keep getting faster and see where it takes me. I used to train in the UK before moving to the UAE and now I’m out here training myself which is going really well. I’m going back to the UK after the academic year because here I’m running against under 17 men who give me good competition”. Also in competition was Noaman Elassaoui, running out of Al Wasl Club, who won the 800 metres with an impressive time of 1:51:31 and Krtajna Prem, the Under 17 triple jump winner.

Ultimate Athletics educates young athletics with theory workshops with sports science-qualified coaches, nutritionists and physiotherapists.

Northern Irish athlete Leon Reid is an Ultimate Athletics ambassador, recently got first-hand experience of just how intense the competition is during an event – and was left impressed. “It’s crazy competitive here, there’s cameras on the finish line and the kids are dipping for the finishes. The parents are really encouraging of the kids and if they want to build champions then they’re certainly going the right way about it.”

Photography by Melissa Lear to view more of this photographer’s work visit www.melissalear.com

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'New Usain Bolt' Christian Coleman sprints to 60m glory as Genzebe Dibaba bags double

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Christian Coleman confirmed his status as the most exciting young sprinter in the post-Usain Bolt era when he stormed to 60m glory on Saturday as Ethiopian track legend Genzebe Dibaba bagged a golden world indoor brace.

Coleman arrived in Birmingham, England, fresh from having set a new world indoor record of 6.34sec for the sprint and the 21-year-old American made no mistake when taking his first steps in the global arena in the absence of the now-retired Bolt.

Starting in lane four, Coleman enjoyed an electrifying start and powered through the line in a championship record of 6.37sec ahead of Su Bingtian of China, who lowered the Asian record to 6.42sec when he took silver. Coleman’s US teammate Ronnie Baker claimed bronze.

“I have a good chance to lead the sport in the post-Bolt era but like I’ve told so many others, loads of guys have the talent,” said Coleman.

“I have to make sure I keep working to stay on top and when I get the opportunity to take gold medals you take them.”

Genzebe Dibaba

Serial world record holder Dibaba once again demonstrated her imperious form in winning her second indoor 1500m title, just two days after winning her third consecutive 3000m gold.

Dibaba looked completely unruffled as she led the same two athletes on to the podium as she had in the 3000m, this time Briton Laura Muir taking silver ahead of Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan.

In an outstanding night for US athletes, there were also championship records set by Coleman’s teammates Sandi Morris and Kendra Harrison.

A thrilling competition in the women’s pole vault saw Morris clear 4.95m for victory ahead of Anzhelika Sidorova, the Russian competing as a neutral athlete (4.90m).

Greece’s Katerina Stefanidi, the reigning world, European and Olympic champion, took bronze (4.80) in what was a totally gripping event as Morris finally converted her world outdoor and indoor silvers into gold.

There was more of the same from 100m hurdles world record holder Harrison, who scorched home in 7.70sec in the shortened form, the third fastest time ever run.

US medal run

Christina Manning

US teammate Christina Manning took silver as Courtney Okolo also led a US 1-2 with Shakima Wimbley in the women’s 400m while there was more American gold in the triple jump as multiple world and Olympic medallist Will Claye soared out to 17.43m for his second world indoor title, having previously won in Istanbul in 2012.

Poland’s Adam Kszczot also finally won a global title after two world outdoor silvers in the 800m, adding gold to the silver and bronze he has previously won indoors with a dominant display in the four-lap race.

The Pole looked untroubled as he clocked a winning 1min 47.47sec, with American Drew Windle taking silver and Saul Ordonez of Spain bronze.

Controversy again struck the 400m as more disqualifications for lane infringements marred the race.

Czech Pavel Maslak eventually became the first athlete to win three consecutive world indoor titles when he was bumped up into first spot from third after Spain’s Oscar Husillos, who was initially accredited with the win in a championship record time of 44.92sec, and Dominican Luguelin Santos were both disqualified.

“The guys were stronger than me and I do not know what went wrong for them,” said Maslak. “They would have beaten me anyway so even if it is gold, it will have a bronze flavour for me.”

France’s Kevin Mayer added indoor heptathlon honours to his outdoor decathlon title when he edged Canada’s Damian Warner by just five points at the end of two days of competition.

After a disastrous showing in his favoured pole vault, Mayer left Warner with an opportunity: to beat him by three seconds in the final event, the 1,000m, but the Frenchman bundled over the line with half a second to spare for the win.

Provided by AFP Sport

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28 Russian athletes have doping bans from 2014 Winter Games overturned on appeal

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Top Russian officials welcomed a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to lift the bans.

The International Olympic Committee has said it “regrets very much” that 28 Russian athletes have had their doping bans from the 2014 Winter Games overturned on appeal.

It has also warned that the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s (CAS) decision could have a “serious impact” on the fight against doping.

In a decision announced on Thursday, CAS confirmed the anti-doping rule violations of 11 Russian athletes at Sochi 2014 but said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the other 28. Those 28 will now have their bans overturned and their results reinstated.

The 11 who saw their violations upheld will have their lifetime Olympic bans reduced to just cover the 2018 Winter Games, which start in Pyeongchang on February 9.

In a statement, the IOC said it had taken note of the CAS decision with a mixture of satisfaction and disappointment.

“On the one hand, the confirmation of the anti-doping rule violations for 11 athletes because of the manipulation of their samples clearly demonstrates once more the existence of the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping system at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014,” it said.

“On the other hand, the IOC regrets very much that the panels did not take this proven existence of the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping system into consideration for the other 28 cases.”

This, it continued, is because CAS required a higher burden of proof than the IOC disciplinary commission that awarded the bans, which “may have a serious impact on the future fight against doping”.

CAS has not yet released the reasoned decisions, or full judgements, of the two panels of experts who listened to the Russian appeals in Geneva last week. The IOC has said it will analyse those decisions “very carefully” to consider its options, which may include an appeal through the Swiss federal courts.

More pressingly, the IOC reiterated that the successful appeals do not mean those 28 Russians will be able to compete at this month’s Games.

Olympic chiefs suspended the Russian Olympic Committee in December, which means only Russians invited by the IOC can compete in Pyeongchang and they do so as neutral ‘Olympic Athletes from Russia’ (OARs) and only after they were carefully vetted by a panel of anti-doping experts.

The list of 169 invited OAR athletes was confirmed last week and none of those who have been successful on appeal at CAS is on it.

“The result of the CAS decision does not mean that athletes from the group of 28 will be invited to the Games,” the IOC statement added.

“Not being sanctioned does not automatically confer the privilege of an invitation. In this context, it is also important to note that the CAS secretary general insisted that the CAS decision ‘does not mean these 28 athletes are declared innocent’.”

The CAS decision was announced via a press release and among those successful at appeal are men’s Olympic skeleton champion Aleksander Tretiakov, the current women’s European and World Cup skeleton champion Elena Nikitina and Olympic cross-country gold medalist Alexander Legkov.

Aleksandr Zubkov, the double Olympic bobsleigh champion and Russian flag-bearer in Sochi, failed to overturn his ban, however, as did three members of Russia’s second unit in the men’s four-man bob in 2014, which means Great Britain’s upgrade to bronze should be a formality.

The 39 appeals were heard in two batches in Geneva last week, with all but two athletes attending in person. They were heard via video link.

Also appearing via video, were their two chief accusers, the former head of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, who fled to the United States in 2015 and is the main whistleblower in the Russian doping scandal, and Professor Richard McLaren, the legal expert who examined Rodchenkov’s claims on behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

McLaren’s report, published in December 2016, revealed documentary and forensic evidence to corroborate Rodchenkov’s story of an increasingly sophisticated conspiracy to dope more than 1,000 Russian athletes, across 30 sports, over at least five years and two Olympic Games.

Converting that evidence into individual doping cases, however, has proved very difficult, as the IOC has just discovered, despite setting up two bespoke disciplinary commissions to build on McLaren’s work and prosecute athletes.

In a statement, CAS said: “Both CAS panels unanimously found that the evidence put forward by the IOC in relation to this matter did not have the same weight in each individual case.

“In 28 cases, the evidence collected was found to be insufficient to establish that an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) was committed by the athletes concerned. With respect to these 28 athletes, the appeals are upheld, the sanctions annulled and their individual results achieved in Sochi 2014 are reinstated.

“In 11 cases, the evidence collected was found to be sufficient to establish an individual ADRV. The IOC decisions in these matters are confirmed, with one exception: the athletes are declared ineligible for the next edition of the Olympic Winter Games instead of a life ban from all Olympic Games.”

Rodchenkov’s US-based lawyer Jim Walden reacted angrily to the CAS decision.

In a statement, Walden said: “Dr. Rodchenkov testified fully and credibly at CAS. His truth has been verified by forensic evidence, other whistleblowers, and, more recently, recovery of the Moscow lab’s secret database, showing thousands of dirty tests that were covered up.

“This panel’s unfortunate decision provides a very small measure of punishment for some athletes but a complete ‘get out of jail free card’ for most.

“Thus, the CAS decision only emboldens cheaters, makes it harder for clean athletes to win, and provides yet another ill-gotten gain for the corrupt Russian doping system generally, and (Russian president Vladimir) Putin specifically.”

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