UAE’s Bethlem Desaleyn hitting her stride as focus shifts to worlds and Rio Olympics

Running 1,500 and 5,000 metres an option for Brazil, writes Gary Meenaghan.

Bethlem Desaleyn, born in Addis Ababa but naturalised by the UAE, made her Olympic debut in 2012, competing over 1,500m. Paul Kitagaki Jr /
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DUBAI // Bethlem Desaleyn, having defended her 2013 Asian titles last week in China, hopes to ride her momentum into August’s IAAF world championships in Beijing and, 12 months later, into the Olympic Games.

The 23-year-old UAE athlete won two gold medals at the Asian athletics championships in Pune, India, two years ago and successfully emulated that feat in Wuhan, China, last week when she claimed the top step of the podium over 1,500 and 5,000 metres.

Desaleyn will travel to Barcelona to begin her preparations for the world championships, which start on August 22, and said she is already looking forward to getting back out competing on the track.

“Winning is a great feeling, and not just because Beijing is getting close,” she said. “When you win something, it gives you great momentum and motivation and it is only one year now until the Olympics.

“At this level, we have won GCC championships, Arab championships, Asian championships, so the only thing we don’t have is the world championships and the Olympics. With good faith, in time they will come. Everybody dreams of that.”

Desaleyn, born in Addis Ababa but naturalised by the UAE, made her Olympic debut in 2012, competing over 1,500m.

On that occasion she bowed out in Heat 3, seven seconds short of the qualifying time for the semi-finals, but said her improvement since then has been considerable – both physically and mentally.

“London was my first Olympics, so everything was new,” she said. “My time was a little bit down, but now I hope I have progressed well and have the experience so will not get shocked like I was a little in London.

“[In Wuhan] I wasn’t really nervous, because once you win you get more confident and this was not my first win. We are working professionally, have new physios and getting better every day. I am not 100 per cent, but I am training well and the plan is to peak in time for Beijing.”

Desaleyn said there is a chance she will compete in both the 1,500m and the 5,000m in Rio, but she has yet to decide.

One thing that is sure, is that she is not concerned by rival competitors. “When you are an athlete, you do not think about losing or other athletes,” she said. “The only winner in your mind is yourself.”

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