MUSCAT: It was a surreal feeling at the Muscat International Airport for the Sultanate’s sports officials waiting to greet the nation’s heroes. And the reasons for joy and delight were crystal clear. A historic first after more than a decade. This was the first time that Oman had Asian Games silver medallists and they were being warmly welcomed for their spectacular show at the ongoing 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
The national heroes, Musab Al Hadi and Waleed Al Kindi, who clinched Oman’s first ever silver medal at the continental Games, in the men’s skiff 49er sailing event, returned home with the shining medals around their neck.
The last time Oman sports officials waited to greet an Asian Games medallist at the airport was way back in 2010 when sprinter Barakat Al Harthi returned home with a bronze medal in the 100m event at the Guangzhou Asian Games.
The silver medallists and the accompanying delegation were welcomed by Oman Sail CEO Dr Khamis Al Jabri and Dr Marwan Juma Al Juma, Oman Olympic Committee (OOC) board member and chairman of the Oman Hockey Association.
It was double delight for the sailing duo as their medal also secured automatic qualification to the Asian Olympic Qualification Regatta in Chon Buri, Thailand, in December. A win for them in Chon Buri will book a place at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Speaking on his arrival in Muscat, Al Hadi said: “Our emotions are beyond words as a team, and we collectively share immense pride in what we have accomplished amid intense competition against the finest sailors in the 49er class at the Asian level.
“Throughout the competitions, we aimed to pursue points and maintain consistency through meticulous planning. Despite setbacks in a few races, we maintained a high morale to bring honour for Oman. It is a great feeling and matter of pride to see our national flag being raised at the awards ceremony.”
For Al Kindi it was “a journey that spans years.”
He said: “One of the key factors behind our success at the Asian Games is continuous development, unceasing training, and fostering synergy among team members. We have also sought to harness international expertise whenever the opportunity arose in international and regional competitions. We are immensely proud of our accomplishments, and we hope that this milestone serves as inspiration for all athletes in the Sultanate of Oman.”
Al Kindi added: “The silver medal underlines that winning medals is not an insurmountable feat but an attainable goal and it can be achieved through relentless effort and meticulous planning.”
Oman Sail CEO Al Jabri said, “Winning this medal stands as a testament to the remarkable collective efforts of the Oman Sail team, underscoring years of experience and meticulous planning to earn international recognition. We take immense pride in the outstanding achievements by Musab Al Hadi and Waleed Al Kindi in this Olympic class. We eagerly anticipate further triumphs in upcoming championships and Olympic qualifiers. Our heartfelt gratitude extends to the entire technical and support team for their commitment, dedication, and collaborative spirit in securing this international honour for our beloved nation”.
Hashim Al Rashdi, Head Coach at Oman Sail, said, “This accomplishment is the fruit of intense preparation and continuous training preceding the tournament, culminating in the team’s unwavering focus and outstanding performance throughout the event.”
Al Rashdi added, “This achievement adds to Oman’s sports legacy and stands as a formidable addition to the records, marking the culmination of years of effort and rigorous training by our sailors. We take immense pride in their achievements on this continental stage”.
Prior to the latest success, Oman had won only four medals including the historic gold in 1990 at the Beijing Asian Games.
The maiden medal for Oman was earned at the Seoul Asian Games in 1986 by legendary
athlete Mohammed Amur Al Malki in the 400m event with a bronze. He bettered it with an Asian record and a gold four years later in Beijing.
The third medal was won by the 4x100 relay quartet at the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games who were initially fourth but were promoted to the podium after one of the podium finishers were disqualified.
And in 2010 at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, Al Harthi brought an Asian Games bronze in the blue riband 100m event.
The Asian Games are considered the largest sporting event on the Asian continent and the second largest global event after the Summer Olympics. More than 12,000 male and female athletes are currently competing in Hangzhou, representing 45 Asian countries in 40 sports.