Qatar’s 400m Asian Games gold medallist and 2017 World Championships bronze medallist, Abdalelah Haroun, died in a traffic accident in Doha on Saturday.
"Today, with great sadness and sorrow, we lost the hero Qatari runner Abdulelah Haroun, who died in a tragic accident. Our condolences to the family and friends of the deceased, the Qatari and international Olympic family, and we ask God to bless him with his forgiveness and accept him into heaven," Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) President HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al-Thani posted on Twitter on Saturday.
QOC secretary general Jassim al-Buenain too mourned the loss on Saturday: “Sincere condolences and sympathy to the Qatari sports family on the passing away of the runner Abdalelah Haroun, the world 400 meters bronze medalist.”
"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," Qatar Athletics Federation secretary general Mohamed Issa al-Fadala was quoted as saying by AFP.
Condolences poured in from fellow Team Qatar athletes Mutaz Barshim and Abderrahman Samba, and also from World Athletics, who tweeted: “World Athletics is deeply saddened to hear that Qatari sprinter Abdalelah Haroun – 2017 world 400m bronze medallist and a former world junior champion – has died in a car crash at the age of 24.”
The national record-holder with his best of 44.07 run in 2018, Haroun made his big breakthrough in 2015 when he won the Asian 400m title at the age of 18 and set an Asian U20 record of 44.27.
The following year he won the Asian indoor title before claiming his first global medal at the World Indoor Championships in Portland, where he secured silver.
He went to the World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz as favourite for gold, which he achieved in a time of 44.81, and made his Olympic debut in Rio the following month, reaching the semifinals.
At the 2017 World Championships in London, the then 20-year-old had Steven Gardiner of Bahamas for company on the lane to his right, with South African sensation Wayde van Niekerk just a couple of lanes up the order.
Haroun found enough focus, and strength to pick up Qatar’s first medal at the championships, finishing behind Van Niekerk and Gardiner, with a season’s best time of 44.48 seconds.
A man of few words but many beaming smiles and a warm personality, Haroun was gushing on his return to Doha after the medal. “It feels so good, the medal is a different feeling… nothing like I have experienced before, at such a big world stage,” he had told Gulf Times then. “Winning a medal at the world championship has been a dream, and it feels great that I have done that.”
A torn hip tendon hampered his preparations for the 2019 World Athletics Championships on home soil in Doha, where he raced in the heats.
Back in 2018, after winning two golds — 400m and 4x400m relay — at the Asian Games in Jakarta, Haroun was asked about his plans for the next Asiad in 2022 by a television channel. He had replied: “We don't know, after 4 years, whether we will be in the game or not.”