WATCH: 400m champion Haroun "bows out" at 24, Qatar mourns a global star
Qatar's athletics family, and indeed the country in general, was thrown into a mourning mood on Saturday with the sudden and unexpected news of the passing away of one of the finest athletes to ever wear the maroon colour on the global athletics stage - Abdalelah Haroun Hassan.
The 24-year-old 400m bronze medalist at the 2017 World Athletics Championships reportedly died in a car crash in Doha.
The sad news was broken on Twitter by the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) earlier in the day to the expected shock and disbelief from the bewildered sporting fraternity in Qatar.
"Team #Qatar sprinter and world 400m bronze medalist Abdalelah Haroun died today," QOC said in the post, which was accompanied by a black-and-white picture of the athlete holding a bouquet of flowers and the Qatari flag.
While confirming the ugly incident to news agency AFP later, the Qatar Athletics Federation (QAF) Secretary-General Mohammed Issa al-Fadala said, "Haroun died in a car accident in Doha. He was in a rehabilitation programme after recovering from an injury (in preparation) to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Qatar sports and athletics, on a global level, lost a great hero."
Haroun, as he was famously called, belonged to a generation of sportsmen and women who took Qatari sports a notch higher on the global stage, and his departure will surely and sorely missed.
Born on January 1, 1997, the six-foot-tall athlete announced himself on the elite scene by running an Asian indoor record of 45.39 at the XL Galan indoor athletics meet at the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden, in February 2015.
That run also ranked as the third-fastest in history by a junior category athlete and the fastest ever indoor debut. His stock then continued to rise as he comfortably beat Egypt's Anas Beshr by nearly a second at the Arab Athletics Championships in Bahrain in April 2015 with a time of 44.68.
He then established himself as one of Asia's top senior athletes at the Asian Championships in June 2015 after overcoming Saudi Arabia's two-time defending champion Yousef Mizrahi in the 400m final with the same time as he managed in Bahrain.
Mizrahi was indignant about losing to his younger rival, saying, "44.68 is nothing for me actually. I will come back. I will break the Asian record again".
The 33-year-old Saudi's prediction had never come to pass as he was banned for doping in 2016.
Between 2015 and the time he took his final bow on earth, Haroun, who ran a personal best of 44.07secs in 2018, had an impressive and medals-filled career which included a total of ten gold, two silver and one bronze.
He struck his first gold in 400m at the 2015 Arab Championships in Bahrain before repeating the same feat at the 2015 Asian Championships in Wuhan, China.
He recorded the same achievement at the 2016 Asian Indoor Championships in Doha, 2016 World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, 2018 Asian Indoor Championships in Tehran, Iran and the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesian.
In the 4X400m relay, Haroun won gold at the 2016 Asian Indoor Championships in Doha, the 2018 Asian Indoor Championships in Tehran, Iran and the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Haroun earned his two silver medals in the 400m of the 2016 World Indoor Championships in Portland, USA and the 4X400m relay at the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
The departed star made his greatest career mark at the 2017 IAAF World Athletics Championships in London. He grabbed the bronze medal in 44.48, behind South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk (43.98) and Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas (44.41).
Despite an inspiring record at the continental and global championships, Haroun has not had it good at the Olympics. He exited the 2016 Rio Olympic Games at the semi-final stage.
He was "on the road", hopefully to a qualification berth for the 2020 Tokyo Games after recovering from an injury when life drew the final curtain on a short but eventful athletics career.
Masa' alkhayr Haroun, adieu to a Qatari star, goodnight and goodbye to a sports icon. You came, you saw, and you conquered. We will all miss you.
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