Monday,24 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1235, (26 February - 4 March 2015)
Monday,24 September, 2018
Issue 1235, (26 February - 4 March 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Where the sun was shining

Egypt’s Amr Al-Gezeiri narrowly missed the bronze medal at the Modern Pentathlon World Cup 1. However, a fourth place finish put him on the podium anyway. Inas Mazhar reports from Sarasota, Florida

Al-Ahram Weekly

While Americans suffered from an unusual snowstorm that severely hit the country the past week, modern pentathlon athletes enjoyed competing in the warm and sunny state of Florida which was not affected like the rest of the southern states and the East coast. However, there were two days of unusual cold.

Swimming and fencing competitions were held at the Selby Aquatic Center while the equestrian, and the combined running and shooting competitions were held in the gorgeous open air Nathan Banderson Park.

Unfortunately all three Egyptian female athletes Haidi Adel, Sondos Tarek and Lamia Fathi failed to qualify to the finals of the women’s event. Great Britain’s Samantha Murray was crowned the Women’s Individual Champion after a breath-taking day of live sporting action.

“Our girls are still so young compared to the other athletes. Two are 16 and 17 while the third is 20. In the modern pentathlon this is still young. We are preparing them for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio 2016. So, I can say that their performance was okay and they are improving from one competition to another,” head coach of the Egyptian teams Raouf Hossam told Al-Ahram Weekly.

It was Britain that dominated the Women’s Individual Final as Murray’s countrywoman Kate French took third place with a strong finish in a thrilling Combined Event.

Margaux Isaksen (USA) split the Brit pair taking silver in front of a large, enthusiastic audience that was captivated and enthralled from the first moment to the last.

Following her victory, the women’s champion Murray told reporters that she was really proud of herself because in the semi-final she was really shaky and felt like she wasn’t in the right place mentally for a competition. “But yesterday, I took the time to think about everything and try and find that feeling I had at the World Championships and bring it to the World Cup.

“The thing with the pentathlon is that you should be really happy when you make the podium because with five diverse events you never know what’s going to happen. I’m just really grateful for every time I stand on a podium because I see that as a massive achievement.”

Unlike the women, three Egyptian athletes made it to the Men’s Individual Final — Amro Al-Gezeiri, Islam Hamed and Yasser Hefni after impressive performances in the semi-finals. But it was Al-Gezeiri who stole the show and captured the hearts since the beginning of the final leading both the fencing and swimming competitions.

But it was James Cooke who completed a spectacular double for Great Britain as he matched the achievement of Murray by winning individual gold of the men’s event.

Cooke’s dramatic victory came at the end of a compelling combined event in which he overtook the leader, Al-Gezeiri, with two laps of the course to go – after which he never looked back.

Cooke, 23, already had one World Cup gold medal in his collection after his maiden triumph in Hungary in 2013, but today’s success was arguably the most impressive of his career as it allowed him to take the early initiative in terms of qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

After a long day at the top of the leader board, Al-Gezeiri, his legs tiring on the sand and grass of Nathan Benderson Park and his aim wavering, was then overtaken by the Russian duo Egor Puchkarevskiy and Ilia Frolov, who finished strongly behind Cooke to win silver and bronze respectively. Egypt’s 2014 World Championships silver medallist finished fourth, with Ismael Hernandez (MEX) 5th and Charlie Fernandez (GUA) 6th.

Finishing with a silver was a major breakthrough at the senior level for Puchkarevskiy, who is eight years younger than Russian compatriot Frolov at 22, and who was crowned World Junior Champion last year in Drzonkow.

As the official website of the Union of the International Modern Pentathlon (UIPM) said, Al-Gezeiri had been the man to beat for most of the day in Florida. He was first alongside Raman Pinchuk (BLR) in the fencing round robin after 23 wins, and claimed the lead for himself in the swimming pool where his 200m time of 1min 58.05sec was not bettered.

The Egyptian stayed in pole position through the fencing bonus round and the riding stage, but Al-Gezeiri incurred three faults which narrowed the gap to four points between himself and Cooke. Thus, it provided encouragement for the chasing pack. It was Cooke (GBR) who best took advantage, and his concession of four penalty points allowed him to go into the combined event with a handicap of only four seconds.

Matthias Sandten (GER) was third to start but was quickly reined in by Puchkarevskiy (RUS), who kept up his momentum right to the finish line. Frolov (RUS) used all of his experience and stamina to reach the podium from a starting berth of 11th.

There was no stopping Cooke, however, who held his nerve with some decisive shooting, and as the sun set over Nathan Benderson Park, the champion was warmly applauded on the podium by an appreciative crowd who had packed the stands all day.

“It’s a good start to the year,” said Cooke. “We’ve worked really hard over the winter period, the whole boys’ team and the girls’ team, and I think it has been reflected here because obviously Samantha won yesterday and Kate came third. It was fantastic to get another medal.

“The plan is Rio. You’ve got to take it one step at a time, but it’s really good that it’s going well and I’m just happy with the result.”

Of course, Al-Gezeiri was disappointed as he had ambitions for a medal. “It was the shooting which took me time and allowed the British to pass me. It was a hard day and I had hoped for a medal. Now, I want to work more on shooting so I can do better in Egypt next month in the World Cup 2.”

But Al-Gezeiri still found himself on the podium as the UIPM honoured the top six winners. The top three received medals and prize money while the placements from four to six received only the prize money.

Egypt’s coach Raouf Hossam said that a fourth place finish was good for the athlete and that there would be no time to rest after going back home. “At home, we would like to do better. Again, our main target is Rio 2016,” he said.

Teammates Yasser Hefni came far behind Al-Gezeiri, with Hefni in 20th place while Hamed ended in 26th place.

The second Al-Gezeiri, Omar and Haidi Adel were both selected to represent Egypt in the Teams Mixed Relay event. Again, the Egyptians took the lead in both the fencing and swimming competitions and with a wide margin of points between them and their opponents. Everybody was chanting their names as the Egyptian duo confirmed their supremacy at the fencing bonus round event which is usually held before the equestrian.

Leading the 15-team list, the Egyptian duo were placed to enter the equestrian competition last, as teams start descending from the bottom of the list to the first. Before going to the arena, the athletes warmed up at the back area in front of the judges. Suddenly, and as the event’s announcer was calling for the Egyptians and all heads were raised, judges waved from the back announcing the elimination of the Egyptian team.

It was Adel who committed a naive error when she jumped the fence from the opposite direction without paying attention to the positions of the red and the white flags which determine the directions of the course. It was a disappointment to all -- Egyptians, officials and spectators. Egypt was eliminated from the equestrian competition. With zero points from 300, Egypt fell to the bottom of the list.

The rest needs no explanation. Both Al-Gezeiri and Adel were downed as they entered the combined event — running and shooting. They came last despite the support of the fans. Egypt finished 15 at the bottom of the table with only 1,060 points, almost 200 points behind the 14th place Kazakhstan which collected 1,261 points.

The Teams Mixed Relay gold medal went to the Russians with 1,414 points followed by Ireland as silver medalists with 1,409 points. Canada came third with a bronze medal with 1,395 points.

Al-Gezeiri was selected to represent the men’s athletes at the pre-event press conference and then appeared on an official poster of the tournament. Yasser Hefni also appeared in another official poster of the tournament.

Klaus Schormann, president of the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne, praised the Local Organising Committee and USA Pentathlon for putting on such a captivating show.

Speaking at the post-competition press conference, Schormann hailed the implementation of the Fencing Bonus Round as a valuable addition to the sport’s format due to the increased pressure it places on the pentathletes.

The UIPM president also paid tribute to the hard work of the athletes and of those working behind the scenes. “We have witnessed a wonderful competition full of excitement, skill and passion from the athletes who are to be congratulated, one and all.

“From the success and excitement of the Fencing Bonus Round, all the way to the atmosphere of the pool, the grace of human and horse working together in the riding and the thrill of the combined event – we experienced every emotion today.

“As well as the skill and dedication of the athletes, we must also thank the tremendous work of the Local Organising Committee, our friends and colleagues in the National Federation, the tireless efforts of the volunteers and last, but not least, the amazing spectators who turned out in their numbers to support these wonderful pentathletes,” Schormann said.

With World Cup one over, it’s less than a month when the pentathletes gather again in Cairo for the second edition from 22 - 25 March.

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