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Hassan Saaid captures imagination of Maldives

14 Aug 2016
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 13, 2016: For every Usain Bolt there are hundreds, even thousands, of also-rans. Only the best of the best can command the spotlight on the world’s biggest sporting stage, propelling them to global stardom for their heroic, historic efforts. Lower down the Olympic food chain there are thousands more dedicated athletes with their own goals and their own dreams, striving just as hard as the elite and showing the same amount of dedication and devotion.

Hassan Saaid is one of these. The fastest man in the Maldives, the 24-year-old Male marvel has captured the imagination of the Island Republic and enjoyed two 100m races in the sunshine of the Olympic Stadium on Saturday. In his first race, the second heat of the preliminary round starting at 9.37am, Hassan romped home in 10.43 seconds to qualify easily for the first round proper.

Racing in Lane 2, on the inside of the track as Lane 1 was unoccupied, he showed great acceleration from the blocks and sped to an impressive victory. The slow motion replays, in fact, resembled the end of a long-distance race, as there was no other runner in sight as he crossed the line.

“It was early morning and I won my race but I think I could have done better,” he said. “But I am injury free and I finished strongly, so I am happy overall.” Hassan’s time of 10.43 seconds was slightly slower than his national record of 10.33, and he could not improve on that in his first round heat, finishing eighth and last in heat 5 with a time of 10.47, again in Lane 2.

He was disappointed not to break the national record, but will have benefited from the experience and the exposure for future tests that lie ahead, such as the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, in the build-up to Tokyo 2020. He is already a hero back home for winning the gold medal in the Indian Ocean Island Games in Reunion in 2015, and his training in Jamaica – thanks to support from Olympic Solidarity – has shown him what he needs to do to keep advancing.

According to the Maldives Olympic Committee, some 200,000 of the 350,000 population tuned in to see his races on Saturday, evidence of his star status back home. “I have a lot of people who support me and encourage me in Maldives. Thank you to them all,” he said.

One social media message said: “Success does not come overnight! With determination and passion, Hassan Saaid is working hard day and night to reach to the maximum. “Well done Saaid! To finish first in the heats of ?‎Rio 2016 and to qualify for the first round is a huge success for the tiny island nation with only sand tracks for the athletes!”
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