Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1276, (31 December 2015 - 6 January 2016))
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1276, (31 December 2015 - 6 January 2016))

Ahram Weekly

Sports report card: very good

Egyptian sports is looking ahead to an even better year as it bids farewell to an impressive 2015, writes Inas Mazhar

Al-Ahram Weekly

It was a rewarding year for Egyptian sports. In 2015, Egypt had a reasonable share of success, whether regional, continental or international.

Regardless of several football setbacks which we will get to later, other team and individual sports made impressive media headlines abroad, drawing admiration from the sports world.

Volleyball, basketball and handball were victorious this year. The volleyball team won the African championship for the sixth time in its history after winning all its matches, an achievement that also improved Egypt’s world ranking. As a result, Egypt was promoted to play in the second-seeded international world volleyball league.

Basketballers won the African championship and qualified to the world championship.

The handball team won the World Military Handball Cup in South Korea. To claim the title, Egypt beat Qatar in the final. Egyptian handballers are currently taking part in international competitions in Europe in preparation for the African Handball Championship, a qualifying tournament to the Olympic Games. Head coach Marawan Ragab said all eyes will be on the African title during the two-week tournament which will be hosted by Cairo in January. The title will earn Egypt the qualifying ticket to both the Olympic Games in Rio and the 2017 World Championships.

Individual sports had a spectacular year, not only excelling at the World Championships and Olympic qualifying tournaments but also at the All-Africa Games in Congo, Brazzaville. Athletes in weightlifting, karate, judo, taekwondo, boxing, squash, shooting, modern pentathlon, swimming, table-tennis, wrestling, fencing and athletics all brought glory to Egypt.

In appreciation of the victories, the Egyptian government, represented by the Egyptian Ministry of Youth and Sports, honoured more than 200 athletes for their exceptional achievements in three major international sports events — the All-Africa Games, the Military Games and the Mediterranean Beach Games in Pescara, Itlay. In the presence of their coaches and federation officials, the athletes received certificates of excellence as well as prize money.

The All-Africa Games was Egypt’s greatest prize, confirming the country’s supremacy on the continent. Egypt dominated with a total of 217 medals — 85 gold, 64 silver and 68 bronze in 18 sports. Egypt was followed by South Africa, Algeria and Nigeria in the medals table.

“We won medals in 17 out of the 18 sports with the exception of cycling. The highest was in weightlifting which alone took 43 medals, 25 out of which were gold, 10 silver and eight bronze. It’s amazing they won all these medals with only 15 athletes,” Sports Minister Khaled Abdel-Aziz said during the celebrations.

“Actually, if we look at Egypt’s overall results, it’s really outstanding. In addition to weightlifting, swimming, fencing, wrestling, taekwondo and karate registered the most medals,” Abdel-Aziz said.

Egypt’s swimmers beat South Africa in the pool to clinch top place in a sport which had been dominated by the South Africans for decades at the continental level. Egypt’s swimmers claimed 41 medals which made swimming the second most successful sports for Egypt in the Games. Swimming took 11 gold, 18 silver and 12 bronze.

After ruling the African pool, Egypt’s swimmers, most of whom are studying in the US on sports scholarships, went on to break national records and impress at the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, as well as at US college competitions and international events.

Fencing won an overall 20 medals: seven gold, four silver and nine bronze. Wrestling and taekwondo each won 15 medals. Both won seven gold medals but the wrestlers collected two silver and five bronze while taekwondo had four silver and four bronze. With a total of 14 medals, karate joined the hall of fame with six gold, three silver and five bronze.

In the All-Africa Paralympic Games, also in the Congo, Egypt took part in only two sports, athletics and weightlifting. Athletics claimed three medals —one gold, one silver and one bronze while weightlifting took a total of 15 medals: six gold, six silver and three bronze.

Gold medalists were awarded LE40,000 in prize money, LE26,000 for the silver and LE15,000 for the bronze medalists. The total amount of prize money was close to LE9 million and for the first time, the government decided to be equal. The Paralympians received the same prize money as their able-bodied counterparts.

In the Military Games, Egyptians claimed 13 medals — four gold, four silver and five bronze while the beach football team claimed the gold medal at the Beach Games in Pescara. The athletes won the same prize money.

Squash continued its world dominance, both male and female. Mohamed Al-Shorbagi and Raneem Al-Weleili finished as the top globally ranked male and female. The top 10 list had five women and four men, all Egyptian.

Equestrian was also a winner at the international level when Sameh Al-Dahan, riding the Irish horse Seapatrick Cruise Cavalier, won the Land Rover Puissance at the 2015 Discover Ireland Dublin Horse Show.

Interestingly, women were the highlight winners this year. Showing the women’s way was swimmer Farida Osman, weightlifter Sara Samir, markswoman Shaimaa Hashad, taekwondo Hedaya Malak, Gianna Farouk in karate, Heidi Adel in the modern pentathlon, Dina Meshref in table tennis and tennis ace Sandra Samir.

The women made Egyptians proud as they captured gold medals at world and international championships, beating fierce competitors who were either world title holders, Olympic medalists or both.

However, the footballers could not emulate what their compatriots did. They failed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, even though they had an early bye to the qualifying tournament which was held in Senegal. Eight nations took part in the competition but Egypt was eliminated, coming in dead last in its group. The team had hoped to do better than in London 2012 when they had gone past the group stage before being knocked out by Japan.

The youth teams also had a bad 2015, failing to win a single title. Hopes lie now on the national team which will be battling it out in 2016 in qualifications to both the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The football woes were particularly wicked for fans who, just like most of the world, love the game more than any other.

Irrespective of the flaccid football, based on the triumphs of 2015 eslewhere, Egyptians are now looking forward to the world’s major sports events of 2016, foremost of which is the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“We are only months away from the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and we are looking to reaching the podium in some sports,” Abdel-Aziz said. “That is the number one goal now but, as I said before, time is running out so everyone has to be serious about it.”

Egyptian athletes did indeed step onto the podium in the past three Olympic Games: Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012, in wrestling and fencing. This coming year, the stakes are just as high, as are the expectations.

In 2016, a new sports law is expected to be drafted by a special commission for youth and sports and the new parliament. The role of the commission is to study the draft, drawn up in 2015, amend it, and then give its approval. The law is desperately needed to regulate sports policy in the country.

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