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Hussein's giant leap in football-crazy nation

Twice Asian Games gold-medallist (2002 and 2006) and World Championship silver-medallist, Hussein Taher won the long jump gold at the WMG.
Hindustan Times | By Khurram Habib Khurram Habib Kurram Habib, Hyderabad
UPDATED ON OCT 21, 2007 04:16 PM IST

Hussein Taher Al-Sabee is one of the few athletes from Saudi Arabia to have taken the spotlight away from soccer. Many in his country still remember that eventful day in 1994, when Saudi Arabia beat Belgium in a World Cup match and the country went crazy.

Now, they can boast of someone other than the football heroes. And Al-Sabree is the one.

Twice Asian Games gold-medallist (2002 and 2006) and World Championship silver-medallist, the athlete from the Middle-East country won the long jump gold at the World Military Games here two days back.

"My season is beginning, so I am here to get into my rhythm. I had an uneventful outing in the Worlds at Osaka, so I am trying to compete as much as possible before the Beijing Games.

Al-Sabree's next target is the 2008 Olympic Games and he has already begun his preparations. No sooner than his event ended on Thursday, he was back training again. "In 10 days' time, I compete in the Asian Indoor Championships in Macau, so that's why I am putting in so much of labour."

Hussein's father played football and three of his brothers are into track and field.

"It is a tough job, this athletics. There is a lot of hard work. I try my best at world meets and sometimes I do get success.

"Asia is gaining ground but there is still a long way to go. But now the difference between Asia and the West, to be honest, is not so glaring. In some Asian countries, though, physique might be a problem," he says.

He laments that there are not many athletic meets in Asia. "In Europe, they have events every weekend so you are always in that frame of mind."

Of late, he says, his country's national federation is taking more interest in athletics. "We have world class coaches, like Mike Powell, now. It helps to learn from the best," he signs off, as he gets ready for his training session.

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