Thursday,19 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1285, (3 - 9 March 2016)
Thursday,19 October, 2017
Issue 1285, (3 - 9 March 2016)

Ahram Weekly

High five

Egypt’s Amr Al-Geziri won an unprecedented gold medal at the first stage of the 2016 modern pentathlon World Cup Series in Cairo, Inas Mazhar reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

It was Egypt’s first World Cup medal in the sport. Cairo has become one of modern pentathlon’s most important venues and Al-Geziri, the world No 5, one of the sport’s most consistent performers. His victory in the men’s individual final was attended by a high spectator turnout who roared as the eventual champion ran the last metres of the combined event to cross the finish line.

The modern pentathlon is an Olympic sport that comprises five events: fencing, 200m freestyle swimming, show jumping and a final combined event of pistol shooting and a 3,200m cross-country run.

In Cairo International Stadium, all the drama took place behind the leader. Adam Marosi (HUN) and Valentin Belaud (FRA) crossed the line together in pursuit of silver with the Hungarian doing just enough to consign his French rival to the bronze.

 “I am so happy. There are no words that could describe how I feel,” Al-Geziri said. “It’s my first gold medal and it has happened in my home country. You can see the crowd… I’m just so happy. After my last shoot, when I only missed one, I thought ‘that’s it’ because I knew nobody could make that time up on me. I was really confident that I would be OK.

“Everybody was cheering, and it was amazing. It was one of the best moments of my life,” Al-Geziri said.

The Egyptian had never won a World Cup event before and even though he has enjoyed some very good results at this level in the past, his win was a source of some surprise as well as delight. In the past two years when Cairo hosted a World Cup, the local favourite finished 14th and 22nd.

There was nothing that could wipe the smile off the face of Al-Geziri as he accepted his gold medal to huge cheers.

Marosi was still struggling for breath when he gave an interview in the minutes following his titanic battle with Belaud. “I’m so happy because it is a long time since I was on the podium. The season is very, very long and I need more points for qualification for the Olympic Games – it’s not enough that I am the leading Hungarian athlete.”

Jun Woongtae (KOR) was as consistent as ever as he finished in fourth place, with Pierpaolo Petroni (ITA) and Valentin Prades (FRA) completing the top six. The winner’s elder brother Omar Al-Geziri finished in 11th, one place lower than his result at the Cairo World Cup last year.

But this was destined to be Amr Al-Geziri’s day. He started as he meant to continue, taking a big lead in the swimming with a fantastic time of 1:55.89. Only one other competitor ducked under two minutes: Hwang Woojin (KOR), who timed 1:59.26 with Michal Gralewski (POL) third in 2:00.37.

The leader continued his excellent form on the fencing piste, enjoying 24 victories in his 35 bouts, a tally matched only by Petroni who went on to win the bonus round. Al-Geziri was greeted by a large and noisy crowd in the riding arena, and he did not let them down as one of the 21 riders who enjoyed a clean round. Thomas Toolis (GBR) and Patrick Dogue (GER) emerged from the sand with the highest riding scores, but there was no disguising the identity of the man to catch heading into the combined event.

Al-Geziri set off in the run/shoot with a huge time advantage of 34 seconds from second-place Jun, and the cushion allowed him to keep his nerve and make sure nobody got close to him.

Klaus Schormann, president of the Union International de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), said it was the best possible result for the Egyptian organisers, for the Federation President Sherif Al-Erian and his team. “Many times Amr Al-Geziri was in the leading position in competitions in the last year, and in the end other people have been on the podium. This time, the distance was enough for him and he had a good run and shoot, and everything was perfect.

“Also, to see the second and third place, and how they fought so strongly, was excellent. With such a large audience here, today it was a great atmosphere. They pushed the leading athlete from Egypt to victory and it was a great competition day.

“The media attention from this World Cup here in the Arab world will be much greater with such a winner.”

The day before the men’s final, Britain’s Lena Schoneborn claimed the women’s individual gold medal. Schoneborn, the reigning world champion, led a German 1-2 as she took the title ahead of compatriot Annika Schleu. Elodie Clouvel (FRA) completed an all-European podium as she finished third, with Zsofia Foldhazi (HUN) fourth, Margaux Isaksen (US) fifth and Natsumi Tomonaga (JPN) sixth.

Egyptian female athletes were out of the competition with both Heidi Adel and Aya Medani suffering injuries.

The five-day event culminated with Italy winning the first mixed relay gold medal of the 2016 UIPM World Cup series after an outstanding performance by Lavinia Bonessio and Auro Franceschini.

The Italians were in front with an unassailable lead for much of the day, and Mexico (Tamara Vega & Jorge Camacho) battled all the way to the line to secure silver ahead of bronze medallists Kazakhstan (Elena Potapenko & Vladislav Sukharev). Guatemala (Isabel Brand & Jorge Imeri) finished fourth, Argentina fifth and host nation Egypt sixth.

“We are very happy with the competition today. All the way through qualifying our fencing was bad, but today we won the fencing which was a fantastic result and it allowed us to get the gold medal,” the Italian duo told the crowd after receiving their gold medal.

Vega added: “I am so happy and I think I can speak for Jorge and me and all of the team because Mexico now has a great team with lots of young athletes with a lot of talent. That speaks of the hard work that we have all put in, and I hope in Rio de Janeiro at the Olympic Games we can repeat this achievement.”

Al-Erian said the federation was very glad that UIPM had given them the honour of hosting a World Cup again and said he thought it was a wonderful World Cup.

“It was especially wonderful for us to at last have one of our own athletes, Amr Al-Geziri on top of the podium and to hear our national anthem. The crowd was very happy. The weather was perfect, the horses were very good, there was no trauma in anything and it was an exciting event so I am very happy.”

On the final day, UIPM advanced the credentials of the modern pentathlon as a potential Paralympic sport as Cairo hosted the second official Para-Pentathlon test event which doubled as Egypt’s first Para-Pentathlon national competition.

A 14-strong local team took part in swimming, fencing and the combined event after three months of intensive training. The winners and other medallists were awarded their prizes at the official World Cup awards ceremony.

“We are very happy to be the second nation to host a Para-Pentathlon test event,” Al-Erian added. “We formed the team straight after the first test in Argentina in September last year. Our national team consists of 10 girls and four boys and we are working to prepare more disabled athletes in Egypt to participate in the Para-Pentathlon.” Schormann added: “The Para-Pentathlon competition is very important for us and today was another big step after the first event in Argentina.

“I am so thankful to my UIPM staff and the organisers of this event for what they have achieved with this group. Looking at the faces of the parents and the competitors, I think they were very happy and proud and I think we are going about this the right way.”

The series resumes with World Cup 2 in Rio de Janeiro (7-13 March) which will double as an official test event for the 2016 Olympic Games.

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