Kuwait athletes at Asian Games under IOC banner

 Kuwait's Ahmad M J H Alshatti competes in a men's 1500m Freestyle heat, at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010. (AP Pho

China Asian Games Swimming

Kuwait's Ahmad M J H Alshatti competes in a men's 1500m Freestyle heat, at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010. (AP Pho

 Kuwait's Naser Meqlad blows the firing chamber of his shotgun during the final of the men's trap shooting at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China

China Asian Games Shooting

Kuwait's Naser Meqlad blows the firing chamber of his shotgun during the final of the men's trap shooting at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China

There are 45 countries represented at the Asian Games in Guangzhou. Technically, Kuwait is not one of them.
The International Olympic Committee suspended Kuwait's national Olympic committee at the beginning of the year for alleged political interference by the government, consequently barring Kuwaiti athletes and officials from the Olympic Games and making the country ineligible for Olympic funding.
Still, the Gulf state is represented at the 16th Asian Games. It has 194 athletes competing in 21 sports under the IOC banner. They are simply labeled "Athletes from Kuwait."
By the ninth day of competition, Kuwait had two gold medals _ both in trap shooting _ and five overall.
Naser Meqlad won the trap from countryman Khaled Almudhaf at the Guangzhou Shotgun Center. Both were disappointed at the medal ceremony, though, because there was no Kuwaiti flag raised and no anthem.
"It hurts, and I cried twice, " Almudhaf said. "But what can I do? I want to take the IOC flag off and hear my national anthem. My heart was a rock."
Meqlad won the Asian Games gold medal closer to home when the last edition was held at Doha, Qatar in 2006. He said he could never compare the feelings of having won his first gold.
"I was very happy about winning in Doha. Winning the gold medal was a really good feeling. I cannot replace that feeling."
Olympic Council of Asia president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah is a Kuwaiti and understood the athletes from his country would be disappointed that they're not representing their national team. But he said it was important for them to be here, competing, and was pleased the IOC had involved them under the Olympic banner.
Abdullah Mansour, the captain of the men's volleyball team, said the controversy has affected the team on and off the competition field.
"I mean to participate in events without the Kuwaiti flag, that really hurt the players," Mansour said in remarks translated from Arabic.
"All other teams are participating under their own (national) flag while we are participating under the Olympic flag and that has a bad psychological effect on our players."
Husain Albahrani was the only Kuwaiti competing in the singles table tennis competition, and understood the benefits of being in Guangzhou, regardless of the flag.
"It was an honor for me to represent my country alone," Albahrani said after he was beaten in the event by China's Wang Hao. Albahrani won his first-round singles match before losing to the No. 2 seed.
He also competed in the men's doubles competition, in which he and partner Mansour Alenezy lost to the Indian team of Sharath Achanta and Subhajit Saha.
But Albahrani was happy to be one of the last 16 players in the men's singles.
"I represented my country very good," Albahrani said. "We had some problems with the Olympic community, so to be one of the best 16 players, it was nice."
He also thought it was important for the Kuwaiti athletes to gain international experience, even if it wasn't under their own flag.
It wasn't the large venue that was new to him _ he's played plenty of world tour competitions _ rather, it was the highest caliber of his rivals that offered Albahrani a different experience.
"It was the first time for me playing one of the Chinese players," Albahrani said, after losing to Wang Hao. "It was good experience to know what's my level against their levels. We're always watching them on YouTube and sometimes we saw them in some competitions. To play against them was really a very nice experience."