Monday,23 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1308, (18 -24 August 2016)
Monday,23 July, 2018
Issue 1308, (18 -24 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Any more?

With only days to go before the conclusion of the Summer Olympic Games, Egypt is hoping it can add to its two bronze medals. Inas Mazhar reports from Rio de Janeiro

Al-Ahram Weekly

As of Tuesday, both of Egypt’s bronze medals came in one day and in one sport: weightlifting. The nation’s new prodigy Sara Samir claimed her bronze medal in the 69kg weight category while Mohamed Ihab got his bronze medal in the 77kg category. It was a wonderful and unforgettable day for the Egyptian delegation here in Rio 2016. Headed by Egypt’s Minister of Youth and Sports Khaled Abdel-Aziz and Egypt National Olympic Committee (NOC) President Hisham Hateb, officials, athletes and media all cheered for the two champions as they lifted their attempts.

Samir’s medal was Egypt’s first. She lifted 112kg in the snatch and 143kg in the jerk for a total of 255kg for a third place finish and a bronze medal. Amazingly, the 18-year-old succeeded in all her six attempts, three in each of the snatch and the jerk. The young weightlifter, winner of the 2014 gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing and the world’s junior champion in 2015 captured the hearts of the audience at the Rio Centro, Pavilion 2 hall with her shyness, smile and confidence.

“I am very happy to win this Olympic medal and to make my family back home happy and proud of me. The total points I achieved is the highest I reached in my career. It is a new record for me. Though I am used to winning medals in world championships and the Youth Olympic Games (YOG), this one is so special because it is stronger than the World Championships and YOG,” Samir told Al-Ahram Weekly after receiving her medal on the podium and celebrating with the other winners.

Samir’s father passed away recently. “I wish he was here to witness my achievement. He would have been happy for me and for him I dedicate my medal,” she said.

To take part in the Olympic Games, Samir was forced to miss her Thanaweya Amma or final year high school exams. “I don’t know what to do. I skipped my lessons, had no time to study because of my training and travels abroad and I didn’t even sit for my exams,” Samir added.

The following day, reports came from Cairo that the Ministry of Education would allow Samir to sit for her exams.

“I thank everyone who stood by my side for their support, my coaches and my family because I don’t think I could have done it alone.”

Samir, the first female athlete to achieve an Olympic medal for Egypt, has no idea how to spend the LE500,000 prize money she will be receiving from the government for her achievement. “I never thought of it and I can’t think of it now. It is a big amount of money. I guess I will give it to my mother and she decides what we do with it as a family,” Samir, the third among five siblings, told the Weekly.

Mohamed Ihab claimed Egypt’s second medal. After an hour’s break, the hall was ready for the men’s 77kg competition. The 26-year-old lifted 165kg in the snatch and 196kg in the jerk for a total of 351kg to win the bronze medal.

“This is my biggest achievement ever. I believe I earned this medal because I really worked hard for it. I have dedicated all my time and effort for this day,” Ihab told the Weekly after his victory. And just like Samir, Ihab dedicated his medal to his father who passed away four years ago. “It was my father who supported me to take on this sport. He has always believed in me and my capabilities and knew I would become a real champion one day,” he added.

Before the Olympics, Ihab was twice the world’s silver medalist in his weight category winning his two titles in 2014 and 2015. In 2009 he won gold at the African Championship. A year before, he claimed the silver medal at the World Championships in 2008.

But unlike Samir, Ihab knows exactly what he is going to do with his prize money of LE500,000, and he revealed it to the Weekly. “I will buy a new and better apartment for my mother and the family in our hometown Fayoum and will travel with her to the Haj and help my four brothers.”

Ihab, who is looking forward to the next Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 would like to see a street or a square named after him in Fayoum. “I guess I deserve this.”

Following these two medals, the Egyptian delegation’s appetite was eager for more and anticipated three more medals from weightlifter Shaimaa Haridi, shooting marksman Azmi Mehelba and boxer Hossam Bakr. All three failed to deliver.

In weightlifting, Haridi was close to Egypt’s third Olympic medal in the over 75kg weight category. She lifted 117kg in the snatch and lost the other two attempts to lift 121kg. In the jerk, she managed to lift 161kg and then failed to lift 169kg and was injured in the process. She came fourth.

Mehelba finished 10th despite leading all the way in the skeet event. In the first 125 points, he only missed twice and qualified for the final stage where only 25 skeets remained. Surprisingly, he missed three for the first time in his career for a total of 120/125 which put him 10th in the overall competition.

In boxing, Bakr, winner of the bronze medal at the World Championship in 2015 was a favourite for a medal in the 75kg weight category. He made a good start by winning his first two matches and reached the quarter-finals where the 30-year-old lost 2-1 to his 22-year-old Mexican opponent Rodriguez Misael Uziel 2-1. The three- round bout was so close (10-9, 10-9 and 9-10) that the Egyptian did not believe he had lost the game.

Men’s handball and volleyball, the only two Egyptian team sports participating in the Olympic Games, both failed to go past the preliminary round. The 2016 African champion handball team came in fifth in Group B after delivering mixed performances. Egypt lost to Slovenia, Poland and Germany, drew with Brazil and beat powerhouse Sweden which surprisingly finished last in the group.

Volleyball also finished fifth with only one victory against Cuba and loses to Poland, Russia, Iran and Argentina.

“Well, we were unlucky in all the matches we lost,” Khaled Hammouda, president of the Egyptian Handball Federation, told the Weekly.

“The players squandered victory. Many times we were leading and then failed to hold on to our advantage and lost in the last seconds of the game. We definitely made mistakes that cost us those losses.”

The teams of fencing, table-tennis and judo could not make it to the final stages of their competitions.

Egyptian judoka Islam Al-Shehabi in the over 100kg weight category was the talk of the Games, not because he lost his first-round match to his Israeli opponent Or Sasson, but because he refused to shake hands with Sasson after the game. The incident drew a lot of criticism at the Games in Rio and worldwide, especially back home.

Shortly after the game, the Egyptian National Committee issued a statement which said, “This is to acknowledge that judoka Islam Al-Shehabi was alerted and advised before his match versus Israel’s judoka Or Sasson to adhere to all the rulebooks and maintain a sports morale during their encounter since it is just a game in an international sports event. What happened from the athlete after the game and not shaking hands with his opponent was a personal act.”

The judoka was summoned for a hearing on the same day by the International Olympic Ethics Committee which he attended together with the Egypt delegation vice president Sharif Al-Erian and his coach Bassem Al-Husseini. Two days later, the Ethics Committee issued a severe warning to the athlete and called for adhering to the ethics and values of the Olympic movement.

Meanwhile, despite so many dashed hopes, Egyptians are still clinging to hopes for Olympic medals in the modern pentathlon and taekwondo which start today, Thursday.

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