Monday,20 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1261, (3 - 9 September 2015)
Monday,20 August, 2018
Issue 1261, (3 - 9 September 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Pharaoh with the silver spear

Ihab Abdel-Rahman becomes the first Egyptian to win a medal – a silver in the javelin – in the history of the IAAF World Championships, Abeer Anwar reports

Ihab Abdel-Rahman El-Sayed
Ihab Abdel-Rahman El-Sayed
Al-Ahram Weekly

With his second place finish in Beijing, Ihab Abdel-Rahman made history by winning Egypt’s first medal ever at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships since the event started in 1983.
The 26-year-old wrote his name in the athletics Hall of Fame with a throw of 88.99 metres, 3.73 metres less than gold medalist Julius Yego of Kenya.

Former javelin champions and record holders were flabbergasted by Abdel-Rahman’s performance. Although Abdel-Rahman could not better his personal best of 89.21 metres in Shanghai on 18 May 2014, his effort in Beijing was the fifth farthest anyone has thrown in 2015.

“I am very happy that I was able to raise the Egyptian flag and be among the top three, writing a new history for Egypt,” Abdel-Rahman said. “I am dedicating this victory to all Egyptians and I hope to meet President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. I wish I could have won the gold but I will try to do it next time in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.”

Abdel-Rahman, who was seventh in Moscow in 2013, raised his hands in the air in Beijing following his 86.07m first-round effort, a season’s best.

The Egyptian’s big one came in round two. His javelin reached 88.99m, the second best throw of his career and just 28 centimetres off his national record set in Shanghai in 2014.  
Abdel-Rahman suffered from back pains and it was clear in his last attempt but he still managed the silver.

Kenya’s Yego, 26, became the world leader when the javelin flew high and at a good trajectory to a world-leading 92.72m, breaking his own African record. Yego became the first Kenyan medallist and winner in a field event at the World Championships and only the second African winner in the history of this event, following South Africa’s Marius Corbett in Athens in 1997.

Competing at his sixth consecutive World Championships, Finland’s Tero Pitkamaki took bronze with a 87.64m throw and so now has one of each colour following gold in 2007 and silver in 2013.

Abdel-Rahman had joined a four-month training camp in Finland, coached by one of the most famous gurus in the javelin, Finnish Petteri Piironen. “I learnt a lot from my coach who followed the training plan that was set by my best coach, Mohamed Naguib, in Egypt,” Abdel-Rahman said.

He added that there were a number of sports facilities and equipment “that we Egyptians know nothing about.  

 “I trained there with the world champions and Olympic stars and I completely changed my style and technique, in addition to my fitness,” Abdel-Rahman said. But Abdel-Rahman trained for only one month after suffering from a back injury. He also had to deal with the bitter cold and the language barrier.

An invalid mother also meant Abdel-Rahman had to travel three hours daily to see her.

Dr Walid Atta, president of the Egyptian Athletics Federation, said the federation has been operating under harsh financial conditions since the 25 January Revolution, saving money to prepare the national team’s stars at a time when a number of federations were unable to cover their employees’ monthly salary.

Piironen said that Abdel-Rahman could be a 90m thrower with the help of better coaching. “His throwing arm is one of the best I’ve ever seen. He is big and strong and has a natural gift for throwing. He can run faster, get stronger and fitter. I expected good results this year,” he said on Monday, but not even Piironen expected a medal.

Abdel-Rahman’s athletics career took off in 2006 when he wanted to collect marks for his final year in secondary school. So he joined the school athletics team in Kafr Sakr, Sharqia.

Mohamed Naguib saw him play and asked him to join Ahli club. Later, he joined the Egyptian national team but quit in 2011 after being forced to train with a new coach whom he disliked. Atta intervened, persuading Abdel-Rahman to rejoin.
“I have always seen in him a star and an Olympic athlete. He was well-built, well-behaved and abided by his coaches instructions,” Atta said.

Piironen first met Abdel-Rahman when the athlete came to Kuortane on an IAAF scholarship in 2008. He could see the potential, but financial support and the social upheavals in Egypt meant that continuous training and support was not possible at that time, despite Abdel-Rahman claiming the African title in 2010 and competing for his continent later that year at the IAAF Continental Cup in Split.

However, according to Abdel-Rahman, he was unable to secure a medal in the 2012 London Olympics because he was not given a new pair of spikes for the competitions, so played with an old torn one.
He said that he now needs the support of the Ministry of Youth and Sports to provide him “a respectable place to live and a good salary” to be able to concentrate on his training. “Individual sports always suffer in Egypt. Football gets all the limelight even though it does not collect any medals in international events. We hope to be treated on an equal footing with football players and not less.”

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