Al-Ahram Weekly Online   19 - 25 July 2007
Issue No. 854
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Not where we once were

With the All-Africa Games entering its second week, the competition is heating up. But Inas Mazhar, reporting from Algeria, says Egypt is cold

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Clockwise from top left: Egypt's delegation at the opening ceremony; the waving of the Algerian flag; Egyptian Sara Assem on the offensive in karate; two gold and one silver for Mohamed Abdel-Tawab in the 62kg weightlifting category; fencer Ziad El-Ashri lunges in the épée

According to the official medals table of the All-Africa Games here in Algeria, Egypt is fourth so far after having collected 73 medals -- 25 gold, 28 silver and 20 bronze. Algeria was first with an overall 100 medals, ahead of South Africa and Tunisia.

Egypt's results in the first week of the competition reflect the deterioration in the level of a country which had dominated most previous Games and were the winners of the last edition in Abuja, Nigeria, in 2003. In Algeria, however, Egypt seems ready to give up its historical No 1 spot to South Africa and the North African countries Algeria and Tunisia.

Had it not been for the weightlifting and wrestling, Egypt could have been humiliated even more. Before these two sports began, Egyptians were almost out of the running in judo, fencing and swimming. In just one day, though, weightlifting and wrestling brought Egypt nine medals alone to save the Egyptians further embarrassment.

Eric Lenda, head coach of the swimming team, said he did not expect much from the Egyptians in these Games. "I've only been on the job eight months and it's not enough to apply a new system for the Games. The whole system needs to be changed," the Dutchman told Al-Ahram Weekly.

The football team, represented by an under- 23 squad, lost all its matches in the preliminary round, to Algeria 2-1, Zambia 3-1 and for the final nail, Guinea 3-2. The result isn't all that surprising given that the players themselves apparently wanted to lose on purpose in order to leave the country as quickly as possible after being unable to handle what was said to be unbearable accommodation. The participating teams are all staying in university lodgings, in wards with only two bathrooms. They have to queue for almost half an hour in order to claim their meals, described by many in the delegation as being poor in quality and insufficient. And because of security precautions no one is allowed to leave the village once inside. It was described by some as a prison.

The semi-finals of the football competition start today with Cameroon taking on Zambia and Guinea facing Tunisia. In the final round of the qualifications, Algeria drew with Zambia 1-1 but was bundled out of the competition when Guinea beat Egypt. Cameroon had beaten South Africa 2-0 while Tunisia drew 1-1 with Ghana to reach the semi-finals.

Egypt's judkos Samah Ramadan and Hisham Mesbah won two gold medals while Yasser El-Hosini, Amin El-Hadi, Atef Mustafa and Samah Ramdan claimed silvers.

In fencing Egypt claimed two gold medals in the épée by Aya El-Sayed and Ziad El-Ashri. The silver medals were won in the foil by Mustafa El-Nagati, and Ahmed Nabil in the epee. The men's and women's foil teams also claimed two silvers, while Alaa El-Sayed, Sara Yehia, Seif Mahmoud and Shadi Talaat won the bronze in the sabre. In the women's foil, Shaimaa and Aya El-Gamal each claimed a bronze medal.

In handicapped sports, Mohamed Kamal claimed a gold in the shotput and so did Mahmoud Abdel-Samei in the F56 discus. Mahmoud Attar won another gold in the F58 discus. Mahmoud Ramadan won a bronze medal in the javelin, Hossameddin Abdel-Wader in the 100 metre sprint and another bronze went to Abdel-Wahab Gabr in the javelin F57.

In weightlifting, Ahmed Saad won three gold medals, Esmat Mansour three gold, Mohamed Abdel-Tawab two gold, and Mohamed Mortada one gold.

Abdel-Tawab, Aya Hamed, Ibrahim Ramadan and Mohamed Mortada each claimed a silver.

Graeco-Roman wrestlers claimed seven gold medals out of eight weight categories so far. They were won by 2004 Athens gold medalist Karam Gaber, Karim El-Sayed, Ashraf El-Gharabli, Ahmed Shaker, Yasser Abdel-Rahman, Ahmed Abdel-Sadek, and Mohamed Aboul-Elaa claimed a silver.

In karate, Karim Sherif won gold in the kata event while Sara Assem took the silver. The men's and women's kata teams also claimed two silvers. In the kumite event, Shaimaa Magdi and Bassant Akram each claimed a silver while Hussein Ramadan earned a bronze.

In swimming, Egypt won two silvers and four bronze medals. Ahmed Mustafa Hussein claimed two silvers in the 200 metres backstroke and 50m backstroke. The bronze medals were collected by the women's team in the 4x100 freestyle, the 100 butterfly by Ahmed Salah Abdou, the 4x100 men relay team and Mohamed Gadullah in the 800 metres race.

The sailing team managed to win a bronze medal.

Egypt's Nihal Saleh claimed a bronze in the women's tennis singles and a double with her teammate Menna El-Nagdi. Two silvers were won by the men in the singles and doubles. Mohamed Ma'moun claimed the singles silver and together with brother Karim took another silver in the doubles.

In table tennis, the men's team got the gold while the women claimed the silver after losing to Nigeria.

Top seed Lamine Ouahab easily beat Egypt's Mohamed Ma'moun in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 to win the men's gold medal. "I don't think it was an easy match. It was tough. Ma'moun played very well but I think I concentrated more on my game," Ouahab said.

Ouahab also claimed the doubles gold medal. Teaming up with Slimane Saoudi, the Algerian pair had a hard time overcoming Egypt's Ma'moun brothers but eventually triumphed in three sets 7-5, 5-7, 6-1 to win the gold medal.

Earlier in the day, top-seed Samia Medjahdi had beaten South Africa's Lizzan Du Plessis, seeded four, in straight sets 6-1, 6-4 to win the gold, then teamed up with Assia Halo to beat Nigeria's Amadin Osaro and Olagundoye Margret for the doubles gold. Coach Moncef Ali- Tatar was "very happy with the Algerian performances" in the Games, especially "Ouahab's comeback to the top of his game."

The president of the Algerian wrestling federation, Maamar Hamamid, said on Sunday that the Algerian team still could not stand up to "the tough Egyptian squad" following the results of the first day of the Graeco-Roman wrestling tournament. On the first day the Egyptians won five gold medals and added three more in the second day. Egypt's Gaber entertained the spectators with his world class performance as he knocked down his opponents one after the other en route to the gold.

Judo was dominated by the hosts who snatched most of its gold medals, eight out of 18, thus living up to its own vaunted reputation on the continent. The women and men's Algerian teams received the lion's share in a tournament contested by 224 judokas (69 women and 155 men) from 30 countries.

South Africa has dominated the swimming, winning 16 gold medals with two days to go in the sport. Thus far, 10 African records have been broken.

But despite South Africa's supremacy in the swimming pool, Zimbabwe's world champion Coventry Leigh Kirsty is getting most of the attention after breaking the African record in the 800-metre freestyle, clocking 8:43.89. Kirsty has garnered four gold medals and silver and was denied another silver medal when the Zimbabwean team was disqualified from the 4x100- metre relay.

Mauritian swimming coach Mohamed Idris Sufraz said his country's presence in the All- Africa Games was only intended as an honorary role since the Games were being held concurrently with the Indian Ocean Island Games. In Algeria, 56 athletes are representing Mauritius in nine sports.

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