The UAE remarkably broke the men's 4x400m relay national record to pick up a silver medal on the final day of the Arab Athletics Championships on Friday night - despite two members of the team never having run competitively over the distance. Shortly after Omar Juma al Salfa had superbly claimed the UAE's first senior gold medal in championship history by winning the 200m in Damascus, Syria, he came to his country's rescue to run a heroic final leg run and lift them from fourth to second in a record time of 3mins 9secs.
Al Salfa's younger brother, Bilal, was also called up to the team after finishing sixth behind his sibling in the 200m. Like his brother, Bilal had never before competed in a 400m event. The brothers were drafted into the team after hurdler Ali Obaid, whose 49.68sec personal best over the barriers at 400m would have guaranteed him a medal in the individual event, and 47.20-pace runner, Harith Salim were ruled out with injuries.
Ahmed al Kamali, the UAE Federation president, approached the al Salfa brothers an hour before the event to asked them to run. "We didn't know what to do, we had won silver in the 4x100m relay and we really wanted to compete. But we thought we would have to pull out," said al Kamali. "I asked Omar if he would run. They had never done 400m before but he said yes, joking he was doing it for fun because he had won gold and it would be the first and last 400m he would run." Jasim Saeed ran the first leg and handed over to Bilal. Omar took the last leg and was handed the baton in fourth position by the third-leg runner Soud Abdul Karim.
Omar's tactical race saw him complete a steady 300m and finish strongly on the home straight to take second place behind Saudi Arabia. "Omar showed good tactical awareness and Bilal was excellent in the second leg," said al Kamali. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org