Al-Ahram Weekly On-line   Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
16 - 22 November 2000
Issue No.508
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A field of roses

By Abeer Anwar

Track and field is widely regarded as the bane of Egyptian sports. So lowly are Egypt's males in this particular endeavour that the best women in the world can give our best men a run, hop and jump for their money. And in many cases the females, should we go by their records, can win any bet.

But having won more than double the number of medals garnered by its nearest challenger in the under-20 Arab Athletics Championship, Egypt's future in track is looking up, if only a bit.

Egypt collected 42 medals -- 19 gold, 12 silver and 11 bronze -- to finish way ahead of Saudi Arabia, which bagged only 20 medals, and host Syria which ended up with 37. The Gulf state placed second after winning more gold.

Tishreen Stadium in Damascus, where 600 athletes from 11 countries did all their work, was the scene of three new Arab records, all set by Egyptians. In the discus, Omar El-Ghazali threw for a distance of 53.07 metres, breaking the old record of 50.65m. Inas Abul-Ela set two new records in the 400 and 200. She ran the 200 in 24.66 seconds, bettering the previous mark of 24.9. In the 400 Abul-Ela clocked 53.56 seconds, shattering the old mark of 57.06.

Other Egyptian gold medalists just now coming into their own included Sadeq El-Anani and Hanan Ramadan in the javelin, Nouran El-Gharabawi in the discus, Karim Khamis and Amal Abdel-Sabour in the shot put, Rasha Karam in the hammer, Wahid Mahmoud in the 10km walk and Sarah Ahmed in the 3,000. Manar Mohamed distinguished herself by taking three gold medals in the high jump, heptathlon and 100m hurdles. Doaa Adel took the 5,000 metres, Safaa Ahmed the 5,000-metre walk and Rafiq Mohamed the heptathlon. The Egyptian team also shone as bright as gold in the 4x400m relay.

"I'm really happy with these under-20-year-olds," said Ashraf Bekir, president of the Athletics Federations. "These results are the fruit of hard work and accurate planning and preparation." Bekir, a former javelin champion, said his chargers will form the nucleus of the 2004 Olympics.

Another satisfied individual was Nagui Assad, the squad's technical manager. "The competition was strong but the Egyptians got the upper hand and set new Arab records." Assad, a shot putter of world calibre in the 1970s, tipped El-Ghazali, El-Anani and Abul-Ela as future stars.

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