Al-Ahram Weekly Online   19 - 25 August 2004
Issue No. 704
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

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The first few days of the Olympic Games were disappointing for Egyptians. They hope for better things next week, writes Inas Mazhar

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Egypt's Mohamed Heikal, right, beat Basharmal Sultani of Afghanistan on points, 40-12 ( photo: AFP)

After a string of defeats in the first week of the Olympic Games, and not a medal to its credit, Egypt is looking ahead to the second week when the country's three medal hopefuls -- weightlifter Nahla Ramadan and wrestlers Karam Gaber and Mohamed Abdel-Fatah -- start competing tomorrow in attempts to get the nation on the scoreboard.

The wrestlers are expected to arrive in Athens today from Budapest where they have been in training camp while Ramadan has been in the Greek capital since the beginning of the Games.

Though Egyptian officials are promoting the three athletes to the hilt, there are concerns that the pressure to win a medal might be too much, that the responsibility being heaved on their shoulders is simply too heavy.

Ramadan's father, a former national weightlifting champion and her coach as well, has been trying for the past several months to ease his daughter's burden. She has not been allowed to talk to the media and was even prevented from heading Egypt's delegation at the opening ceremony -- an honour for any athlete -- in order not to break her concentration.

Ramadan starts business today in the 75kg weight category while Gaber and Abdel-Fatah, or Bougi, compete in the 96kg and 84kg events respectively.

The biggest upset in the past week came in handball when the national team lost both its matches, the opener to Hungary 33-28 and to Germany 26- 14. The Egyptians were world No 4 in 2001, placed sixth in Atlanta 1996 and seventh in Sydney 2000. An injury to top scorer Hussein Zaki is a blow that might ultimately prevent the team from second round action.

The swimmers were not much better. Ahmed Mustafa and Salam Abdel- Raouf showed that it might take Egypt a long time to produce another Rania Elwani, who finished 11th in the Sydney Games. Mustafa, in the 100 metres backstroke, was placed 31, clocking 85,56 seconds while Abdel-Raouf, in the same event, placed 28th.

Egyptian water polo was making its first appearance in the Olympic pool since 1968 in Mexico. But the hiatus did not help. The Egyptians lost their first game to Australia, not a water polo power, 14-3. Egypt is also grouped with former silver medalist Germany

Marksman Mohamed Ismail finished in 24th place, scoring 590/600.

Field hockey lost its opener to England 3-1. Pakistan, one of the giants of the sport, are in the same group.

Boxing was the one sport that went anywhere. Five have made it to round 16. Reaching that stage secures ninth place at least.

The best result in fencing thus far was Tamer Tahoun reaching round 16 in the foil before losing to Hong Kong's Han Joung. Teammates Anwar Mustafa and Mustafa Nagati were eliminated in the first round.

Archery saw the defeat of Maged Youssef in the first round.

In weightlifting, Anga Sayed came in 14th place in the 48kg, failing to record her personal best record of 177.5kg. She lifted 165kg, a drop of 12.5kg. Teammate Ahmed Saad finished fourth in the 56kg event after lifting 232.5kg.

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