'NEVER GIVE UP'
He is the fastest sprinter of Oman and the only athlete from the sultanate to break the physical and psychological ten-second barrier in 100 metres. Barakat al Harthi is one of the poster boys of Oman sports, who has participated in two successive Olympic Games, and has now set his sights on the 2020 Tokyo Games, which have been postponed to next year.
If the 31 year old succeeds by achieving the 'tough' qualifying mark of 10.05 seconds in the 100m, it will be his third successive participation at the Games. His maiden Olympics was in 2012 at the London Games and then he participated in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The challenge to Olympic qualification is 'arduous' in his own words as Barakat failed to record good timings last year despite winning a gold medal at an international meet in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
His best timing clocked last year was 10.30s during the Asian Championships in Doha, Qatar.
The Ibra native admits that much improvement has to be made and banks upon his success mantra: Never give up.
“I have a strong belief in myself and never give up on my goal. That's me,” he told Muscat Daily on Tuesday.
Barakat had set a historic Omani record of 9.97s during the West Asian Athletics Championships in Amman, Jordan, on July 9, 2018.
With sports activities grinding to a halt across the country and no option to train at the stadium, Barakat is currently training at home but is confident of a strong comeback on the tracks.
Barakat said, “The lockdown has affected all sports around the world and it is no different here. My training schedule has been severely hampered as it is the first time that I have been forced to train at home.
“It is totally a different experience when we compare training activities at home to what we do normally at the stadium.”
Disappointed on an average performance last year, he said, “I did not have the best of season last year but that is behind me now. I am looking ahead and am confident that if the Oman Athletics Association (OAA) and the Oman Olympic Committee (OOC) arrange a long overseas training programme, I can make it to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics next year.
“The Olympic qualification target in 100m is 10.05s and it is a difficult task. But I am confident that I can achieve it with my never-say-die spirit and the support of the OAA and the OOC.”
Critics argue that age will be against the decorated athlete as he would be 32 when the Olympics will be held in July next year.
Barakat, however, denied that age would come in between his dream of a third successive qualification to the Olympic Games.
“The Olympic qualification is a challenge I have taken on myself and once the lockdown ends, I will pursue it till I achieve it. It is not going to be easy but I know I can do it,” said the national champion.
On his lockdown schedule, Barakat said 'though training is not comfortable' he has made ways to improvise and train regularly.
The affable sprinter, who has competed in three World Athletics Championships said, “I have a 30m track at home. Also, there is a small football pitch, basketball area and a gym. I do regular exercises as it is crucial to keep myself in good shape.
“I hope the COVID-19 pandemic is brought under control soon. It has been two months now for me staying at home.”
The national 100m champion and Asian indoor 60m silver medallist, thanked his coach and former Oman international Mohammed al Hooti for his constant support.
“He [Mohammed] has been a big source of encouragement on and off the tracks. I owe a lot of my success to him. With him beside me, I am sure that I can make a strong comeback,” he said.
Besides winning the 100m bronze (10.28s) at the Asian Games at Guangzhou, China, in 2010, Barakat has won 100m bronze medals at the Asian Athletics Championships (2013) and 100m gold at the World Military Games in 2015.
Barakat's record time of 9.97 made him only the sixth Asian to achieve the below ten-second mark and since his feat, two more Asians have joined the club.
The exclusive club includes three sprinters from Japan and two each from China and Qatar. China's Su Bingtain (9.91s) and Qatar's Femi Ogunode (9.91s) have the fastest times in Asia.