Salim Saleh El-Hekr and Mohammad Abdullah live in localities close by in Yemen's capital Sana'a and participate in the same event — the 400m. They have shared practice times, gym equipment and at times even lived in the same room during competitions. But never in their life did they imagine they would be forced to use the same pair of shoes for competition — that too borrowed from other team members.
The two youngsters from Yeen had to run the 400m heats at the Asian Athletics on Wednesday using the same pair of shoes because the airlines misplaced the entire team's baggage.
We waited for hours at the airport in Mumbai for our luggage but it did not arrive. The Egypt Airways officials later informed us that they did not load the baggage in Cairo, our main transit point, because the aircraft was overloaded,” said Shagufa Umar, the team's manager who speaks excellent Hindi.
The Yemen contingent for the Asian Athletics Championship comprises eight athletes and two officials and all are making do with whatever they had brought in their hand baggage. Their immediate concern after reaching Pune on Tuesday evening was to get El Hekr and Abdullah ready for Wednesday morning's 400m heats. They had shorts and shirts but to their dismay, they found that they had only one pair of shoes.
"The two athletes had to share the same pair. It was quite uncomfortable for them but nothing could be done. Though they did their best, they could not qualify for the semifinals," said a disappointed Shagufa.
So although the first day of the event was not marked for shopping, the squad had to rush to the market on Wednesday afternoon to pick up shoes, shirts, nutritional supplements and other essentials. At least others will not have to share shoes or shirts now.