Saudi 400m medal hopeful not feeling the pressure

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Saudi Arabian men’s world 400 meters medal hopeful Yousef Ahmed Masrahi said on Sunday he would not crack under the weight of expectation back home.

The 25-year-old -- who qualified for the semi-finals after finishing fourth in his heat in Moscow -- added he was keen to either emulate or better the bronze medal of compatriot Sa’ed Shaddad Al-Asmari, who won his in the steeplechase in the 1995 world championships.

Masrahi, a two-time Asian champion, has racked up a series of good results this season to back up his claims that he can win a medal, with runners-up spots in the Oslo and Rome Diamond League meetings and fourth in the London renewal.

This has led to expectations in Saudi Arabia that he can deliver a medal for a country that has over the past 20 years produced some notable performers such as 400m hurdler Hadi Soua’an Al-Somaily.

He won the country’s first Olympic silver medal in 2000, only missing out on gold when having led the whole way he was passed on the line by Angelo Taylor.

Masrahi, though, is determined not to let the hopes of success for him in Moscow distract him from the task in hand.

“I don’t feel the pressure from an expectant people, who are all waiting for me to win a medal here,” he said.

“I am cool and I will focus on the race,” he added.

Masrahi’s fortunes have taken a turn for the better since he decided like Al-Somaily did previously to move to the United States and be coached by John Smith.

The former coach of 2000 Olympic 100m champion Maurice Greene and other top sprinters was the obvious choice as his business partner Emmanuel Hudson has close relations going back to university with a member of the Saudi Royal Family.

“Being in America has been crucial to my development, especially joining up with John Smith, who has improved me considerably,” he said.

Masrahi, who started out as an 800m and 1500m runner, said that this all helped in his goal to write another prestigious chapter in Saudi sporting history.

“Saudi athletes have performed well before in major athletics championships and I want to be like them,” he said.

“I want to make history for Saudi Arabia.

“There appears to be a tradition in Saudi that one top athletics star passes on the baton to another one. However, I have a feeling that it won’t be just one in the future as there are several young ones back home who can be stars.”

Masrahi’s next challenge will be to go one better than in the Olympics last year and reach the final, and he believes he is set to do so.

“The semi-final will be difficult but I am ready for the challenge and will aim to run under 45 sec to realise this dream,” he said.

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