The mighty Egyptians are taking part in the annual African Judo Senior Championships in Antanaorivo, Madagascar, with eight male and two female players, part of 154 competitors from 21 African countries. The three-day tournament starts tomorrow, Friday 14 April.
According to president of the Egyptian Judo Association Sameh Moubasher, Egypt is fully prepared to defend the medals it won in Tunisia last year. “We won a total of eight medals in the individual competition, four of which were gold, in addition to two silver and two bronze medals, plus the team silver,” Moubasher said.
“We would have liked to participate in almost all weight categories and with as many players as we could but due to budget constraints, which all sports federations are suffering from these days, we had to reduce the number of players. We even had to replace officials with players to allow the participation of players rather than officials.”
Head coach Haitham Al-Husseini has been assigned to head the delegation and be in charge of administration as well. Also, because only two female players are taking part, the technical staff of the men’s team comprising technical manager Bassem Al-Husseini and head coach Al-Husseini will be in charge of the women’s team, too,” Moubasher said.
The Egyptian men’s team includes Ahmed Ali (-66kg), winner of the gold medal at last year’s African Championships in Tunisia; Mohamed Mohi (-73kg), the world’s 41st ranked player and defending champion of his weight category; Omar Sami (-73kg), who, being a junior, makes his first appearance at the seniors mat at the age of 18 to gain more experience; and Mohamed Ali Abdel-Aal (-81kg), the world No 20, defending champion of his weight category, winner of the bronze medal at the World Judo Masters in May last year in Mexico and who qualified to the round of 16 at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro last year.
There is also Ali Hazem, the world No 84 and silver medalist at the previous edition of the African Championships. Hazem will join Abdel-Aal again in the same weight category, probably a repeat of the all-Egyptian final last year in Tunis. Hatem Abdel-Aher (-90kg) is the world No 89; Ramadan Darwish (-100kg), is the defending African champion, world No 22, gold medalist at the European Open in Switzerland last month and seventh-place finisher at the Rio Olympics; and Maisara Al-Naggar (+100kg).
According to head coach Al-Husseini, the team is looking forward to taking part in the African Championships and continue its success of last year in Tunisia. “We are prepared but we can’t say we are satisfied with our preparations. Because of the austerity measures taken by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, we didn’t get the chance to attend any training camp abroad or participate in any world judo championship like the Grand Slam and the Grand Prix as we did before. We took part in most events on a monthly basis for a whole year as part of our preparations for last year’s African Championships which was then a qualifier for the Olympic Games.
“But this year it’s different. We didn’t get the chance to participate in competitions or train abroad ever since our return from the Olympic Games in August last year. As a result, the world rankings of the players have dropped while the rankings of our main competitors and arch-rivals in North Africa have improved because they have been making appearances at Grand Slam and Grand Prix events. Still, the players are in high spirits and are determined to win,” Al-Husseini said.
The three-day event is a qualifier for the World Judo Championships in Budapest, Hungary in August. The 38th edition of the African Championships concludes on Sunday.