INCHEON, South Korea - The UAE's Alia Saeed Mohammed ran a personal best to win the Asian Games women's 10,000 metres on Saturday and claim the first of an expected slew of medals for African-born athletes running for wealthy Gulf states.
Mohammed, orginally from Ethiopia, led a breakaway trio with five laps to go at Incheon's Asiad Main Stadium, comfortably holding off China's Ding Changgin and Ayumi Hagiwara of Japan to claim her adopted country's first gold of the Games.
The 20-year-old's winning time of 31 minutes, 51.86 seconds was the fastest of her career and she will go into Thursday's 5,000 metres full of confidence.
Numerous athletes from distance running powers Ethiopia and Kenya have switched to run for Gulf states in recent years, particularly Bahrain and Qatar.
At the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, Bahrain and Qatar dominated the men's long-distance track events, taking all six medals on offer in the 5,000m and 10,000m.
All six medallists were born in Africa, highlighting the controversy over athletes switching to run under the flag of a borrowed nationality.
In the field events, Tajikistan's Dilshod Nazarov added a third Asian Games hammer gold to add to the ones he won in 2006 and 2010.
Even a season's best throw of 73.65 metres from China's Wang Shizhu was not enough to catch Nazarov's 76.82. China's Wan Yong took bronze with 73.43 The star turn on Saturday comes when Bahrain's Kenya-born teenager Ruth Jebet starts hot favourite to win the 3,000 steeplechase and break the tournament record on the way.
Jebet, 17, broke the Asian record at the Diamond League meet in Zurich this year in 9:20.55 seconds, more than half-a-minute faster than the Asiad record set in 2010 by reigning champion Sudha Singh of India, who also runs on Saturday.
Another Kenya-born Bahraini, Albert Kibichii Rop, looks set to claim a gold in the men's 5,000 on Saturday after timing a personal best of 12 minutes, 51.96 seconds in August. The current Games record in the event, 13:38.37, has stood since 1994.