Friday,24 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1291, (14 - 20 April 2016)
Friday,24 November, 2017
Issue 1291, (14 - 20 April 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Confidence under the belt

Egyptian judokas impressed at the African Juniors Judo Championships in Tunisia, Inas Mazhar reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

With eight medals (four gold, two silver, two bronze) in the men’s individual competition, Egypt can go to this summer’s Olympic Games with plenty of confidence. Egypt came first in the individual competition at the African Juniors Judo Championships with hosts Tunisia and Algeria coming second and third respectively. In addition, the Egyptians placed fifth in two weight categories.

In the teams competition, the Egyptians came second behind the home team. The Algerians were third.

During the three-day event, athletes from 31 nations battled it out for the essential qualification points to participate in Rio de Janeiro. This year’s African championships were more important than ever as each point in the 14-weight category classes helped the athletes find their way to Brazil.

The 2016 edition was held at the El-Menzah indoor complex in the capital Tunis, which saw a high spectator turnout. The crowd, with high expectations, enthusiastically supported their home players who did not disappoint, topping the overall medals table with 16 medals, five of which were gold.

Day one saw the home crowd being rewarded for their devotion to their men’s and women’s teams, which paid off handsomely with the home teams claiming three gold medals from a total of eight. The haul was more than what Tunisia garnered last year, though one less gold. Most of the weight categories had a dream final with the biggest rivals participating.

The women’s U-78kg saw the biggest surprise on the first day with Cameroon’s Hortence Vanessa Mballa Atagana, the world’s No 33 in the IJF world ranking. The Cameroonian snatched the gold medal from the Tunisian Sarra Mazougui, the world’s 36th ranked player. The top four finalists of this event were the same as last year but with some changes in positions. Last year’s bronze medalists celebrated their improvement this year as they claimed silver and gold. This year’s bronze medals went to Gabon’s Sarah Myriam Mazouz and last year’s winner Kaouthar Quallal of Algeria.

Unlike the women’s event, the men’s plus categories saw no surprises as results delivered the expected winners, both of whom coming from the host nation.

It was the fourth time in the African championships that Tunisia dominated the women’s heavyweight categories. Legendary Nihel Cheikh Rouhou was the favourite in the women’s +78kg as she won her 17th African title including the All-Africa Games. Winning both the plus and open titles, Rouhou is expected to improve on her current eighth place world ranking.

Led by head coach Bassem Al-Husseini, Egypt won two gold medals starting with the U-81kg gold. Mohamed Abdel-Aal maintained his level of play after winning the All-Africa Games last year in an all-Egyptian final on Tunisian territory. Abdel-Aal beat fellow countryman Ali Hazem by the waza-ari. Last year’s gold medallist, Tunisia’s Abdel-Aziz Ben Ammar, won bronze this time accompanied by Hamza Drid of Algeria.

With nine medals at hand, it was the Algerians who dominated the mat on day one. Their highlight was the gold won by the world’s No 20 Abdel-Rahmane Benamadi who took the African U-90kg title.

But it was an Egyptian who culminated day one with what was considered the best final match of the day, featuring Ramadan Darwish of Egypt against Algeria Lyes Bouyacoub in the U-100kg. Both players know each other well and their encounters have always been tense and close. In their last head-to-head in Libreville a year ago, Bouyacoub won. But this year, Darwish led by a yuko and won the match by a oseikomi. The former world number two in the IJF ranking, Darwish, runner-up to Bouyacoub in the last two editions of the African Championship, 2014 and 2015, is now the newly-crowned African champion.

The most sensational moment in the second and last individual day was the two other gold medals captured by the Egyptian men. It was the first time since 2009 that four Egyptian judokas won a gold medal at the African championships.

Algeria leads the African nations in the number of most medals won in the history of the African championships. Though the Algerians had 18 medals in total, they won only twice in seven finals.

The Egyptians showed their supremacy in the men’s division, especially in the U-60kg category, which for most, was beyond anyone’s expectations. Ahmed Abdel-Rahman won his four matches with Fraj Dhouibi of Tunisia in the final, the victim with a yuko difference. Morocco’s defending champion Yassine Moudatir was surprisingly caught in the second round by Angola’s Nayr Pedro.

Morocco picked up the gold medal in the U-66kg with Imad Bassou beating Egypt’s favourite Mohamed Abdel-Mawgoud.

In the U-73 weight category, Mohamed Mohieddin outclassed his opponents in the division which saw 23 judokas fighting for the title. But it was the Egyptian who claimed the title and the fourth gold medal. Mohieddin, winner of the All-Africa Games gold medal in 2015, took bronze at the European Open in Oberwart in February and poses a serious threat to some Olympic contenders.

After two days of individual championships, 20 teams fought to get the 2016 titles by nation. Tunisia claimed the men’s gold medal, while the Egyptian team took the silver. Algeria and Senegal captured the bronze.

Tunisia’s women also claimed the gold teams event. The Algerians won the silver while the Moroccan and Cameroonian ladies took the bronze.

The African championship was attended by IJF president Marius L. Vizer, who declared open the tournament with Tunisia Minister of Sports Ben Dhia Maher. Vizer revealed his wish that Africa win a medal at the Olympic Games “to spread the success”. Egypt and Algeria have previously won Olympic medals. Egypt won silver thanks to Mohamed Rashwan in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games and a bronze in the 2008 Beijing Games by Hesham Mesbah.

The Egyptian delegation to this year’s African Championships comprised 10 male and female athletes; eight men and two women. The delegation was headed by the federation’s president Sameh Mobasher in addition to two board members, Marzouk Ali, head of the men’s delegation, and Moteia Fakhreddin, head of the kata team.

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