LONDON // The governing body for athletics in the UAE are confident Bethlem Desaleyn is on course to become a middle distance runner of substance, even though the young athlete missed out on a semi-final place in the 1,500 metres at London 2012.
Desaleyn qualified for the Games when she ran four minutes, eight seconds at a meeting in Casablanca in June, but she was some way short of that personal best time in front of the packed stands in Stratford yesterday.
She finished 14th in heat three of the 1,500m in 4:14.07 at the Olympic Stadium, which left the 20 year old runner seven seconds off qualifying for the next round.
This was the first time she had competed in such elite company, and the UAE’s first female track Olympian will be a better runner for the experience, according to Ahmed Al Kamali, the president of the UAE Athletics Federation.
“She has been in training for two-and-a-half years, and it takes a long time for an athlete to be at the Olympic level,” Al Kamali said.
“She has a bright future. She has only been in competition for two-and-a-half years, and she will be in a very good position after four, five or six years.”
Desaleyn, who was born in Addis Ababa, became eligible to represent the UAE in March 2010 under the IAAF’s transfer of allegiance rules.
Ethiopia had three competitors in the 1,500m heats including Abeba Aregawi, who qualified fastest, while four others were also born in the African country – Desaleyn, plus the three runners representing Bahrain.
She betrayed signs of her inexperience as she subsided over the final stages of her heat, having been well placed over the first two laps of the race.
However, the national athletics federation are content to remain patient over her development, as well as that of her training colleague, Alia Saeed Mohammed.
“We do not need to be rushing her,” Al Kamali said. “She is at the level of four minutes, eight seconds now, so she is OK, and she is only young.
“She does not have the experience to compete with the likes of Abeba Aregawi, the Ethiopian, or Shiham Hilali from Morocco, because these athletes are all more than 27 years in age. Age is important for middle distance running.”