(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) Oman's long-distance swimmers underlined their dominance once again at the regional level when they were crowned as overall champion for the third successive time at the 13th GCC Open Water Swimming Championship, which concluded on Saturday in Manama, Bahrain.
The title-winning streak began in 2012 and since then, Oman's marathon swimmers have been reigning supreme at the GCC and the Arab level.
Oman took part in three categories - men's open (10km and 5km), 15-17 years age group (5km) and 13-14 years age group (3km).
It was the first time that the GCC committee had organised a competition for the 13-14 year olds and except for that event, Oman clinched individual and team titles in all the remaining categories.
Mohammed al Habsi was the winner in the gruelling 10km race in a time of 2hr05m58s, followed by his teammates - Aiman al Qasmi (2hr06m01s) and Musallam al Khaduri (2hr06m13s) at second and third places respectively.
''I am very happy that I could help Oman win the third overall title in a row. It was a team effort and I am happy with my own performance,'' said Habsi.
With Oman's fourth member of the squad, Khalid al Kulaibi, also finishing fourth (2hr08m17s), the sultanate side expectedly won the team honours followed by Kuwait and hosts Bahrain. Ahmed al Bader of Kuwait finished fifth (2hr15m35s).
Oman's most experienced marathon swimmer Khalid al Kulaibi won his favourite 5km open category race (1hr01m47s) but not before staving off a stiff fight from his teammate Habsi (1hr01m48s).
It was once again a clean sweep of the podium as Qasmi took bronze (1hr01m49s) and Khaduri came fourth (1hr01m52s), as Oman won the team title, followed by Kuwait and Bahrain.
In the 15-17 year age-group event, Issa al Adawi led an Oman sweep in the 5km race with Nidhal al Harassi and Abdulrehman al Kulaibi finishing second and third, respectively. And in the 13-14 year age-group event, Oman took the bronze medal in the race where Kuwait swimmers took the top five places.
Buoyed by the spectacular success in Bahrain, the Oman Swimming Association (OSA) officials credited the wins to elaborate planning.
In his remarks to Muscat Daily on Sunday, Qais al Zakwani, the OSA general secretary, said, ''The success is sweet but it is a result of careful planning and hard work of the swimmers and the Algerian coach [Kamal Khoumari]. We are happy that we could extend our supremacy at the regional level for the third time in succession.''
''As it was the debut for the 13-14 year age-group boys, we knew that there would not be instant results but we wanted them to gain exposure and are satisfied,'' said Zakwani.
''The decision by the OSA to split the swimmers into two groups for short-course and long-distance soon after the 2010 Asian Beach Games, has been the key reason for Oman's dominance in open water events. The focus is there for each event and as a result of that, our swimmers have improved a lot. As a team, we are one of the best in Asia but unfortunately, there are not many team events organised at the Asian level. Individually, our swimmers are among the top ten in the continent,'' he sa