Thalhath Shah has just graduated high school and admits he has no idea what he wants to do with his life – maybe there’s a future for him in athletics.
Judging by his red-hot performances on only his third appearance at one of Ultimate Athletics’ Ultimate Racenights in Dubai on Thursday night, the Indian teenager might want to keep track of his options.
On the track the Dubai-born 17-year-old was untouchable at Dubai Sports City on Thursday – the fifth and penultimate meet of the 2018/19 season, at the UAE’s only open athletics league.
Shah comfortably won his U-17 100metre and 200metre races – posting impressive times of 11.26 seconds and 23.57 seconds respectively. Despite being physically drained he even took up the challenge to run in the final event of the night – the 400m – against several older athletes and one Masters competitor. And even though he was clearly fatigued and took it easy, he still came home in fifth.
“I don’t specialise in that (400m) but I still ran. The 100m is my favourite,” said the wiry teenager who has a beautiful, smooth and elegant running style.
Shah, who comes all the way from his Sharjah home to hone his technique, improve his times and compete, added: “I just graduated from the Indian Excellent Private School in Sharjah. I live in Sharjah and come all the way here for this, which I’ll continue to do.
“I like this sport and hopefully there’s a future in it. I’ve not been doing it long and I have a long way to go.”
Ultimate Athletics was set up in March 2015 by Lisa Campbell, a former athlete who has turned her passion into a career. But in a short space of time the club has clearly earned a fine reputation as Shah’s coach at Al Wasl Club had urged him and friend Pranav Onair to attend in order to improve, and then report back.
“It’s my third time tonight, I came for the first time in December,” said Shah.
“I’m training with Al Wasl Club. I’ve been there over six months. So from there me and my friends heard about it. I wanted to come to get my personal best timings and improve. They provide great equipment and everything else so we’re able to perform at our best.
“I play other sports but athletics is my favourite. My friends compete and I can compete against them. My Al Wasl coach is a pro coach. We turn up, track our results and then take them back to the coach and hope he’s happy with them.”
Shah was born here in Dubai but his family are originally from Kerala, India. And as talented as he is, he credits them with his rise, as well as taking competitions seriously.
“I work hard on my performance and I guess some of it is in the genes too,” he added.
“When competitions come I try to control my diet one month before. No soft drinks, which is hard because I love them.”
Friend Onair, also 17, is another keen 100m and 200m runner and member of Al Wasl.
He said: “I’ve been here the same amount of times with Thal, we heard about Ultimate Athletics off our coach. We know this club and it’s a way to track our performance.
“He told us there’d be good competition and we’d be able to track performance and work hard on our timings.”
Despite Shah’s dominant displays on Thursday he still has some way to go to topple 100m and 200m record holder Krtajna Prem this season. He has posted times of 10.76s and 22.64s and is part of Ultimate Athletics’ Elite Squad which has been selected to go to the Gothenburg Youth Games in June, Scandinavia’s largest open track and field meet.
“These promising youngsters will get the chance to compete against some of the strongest athletes in Europe and we are really excited for them to experience the atmosphere on the big stage at the Ullevi Stadium,” said club guru Campbell, who was ecstatic as a night of feats were achieved on Thursday.
“In the men’s 100m a new seniors’ record holder has emerged in Omari Barton-Ellington who ran a blistering 10.34.
“The Masters Ultimate 60m dash was run sub seven seconds for the first time. Guest winner Umar Hameed will not qualify for the final as he has represented Pakistan, however legal athlete Aaron Seminski is the No1 ranked runner to beat with a time of 6.94 secs.”
The fastest eight Masters men this season go through to the Grand Final, also the final meet of the year, on May 23.
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