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Waiting for a winner
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 09 - 08 - 2016

Today, Egyptian athletes continue taking part in 11 sports: swimming, judo, handball, gymnastics, table-tennis, boxing, beach volleyball, rowing, sailing, volleyball and archery.
Egyptian table tennis, women's beach volleyball, archery and gymnastics all failed to make it past the first round.
Though no medals have been won so far, some remarkable results were achieved. The most significant was a fifth place finish in the women's air pistol by Afaf Al-Hodhoud. The 19-year-old markswoman took the lead in some stages of the competition and was close to making an appearance on the podium. However, experience won out in the end and the young Egyptian fell behind.
“This was beyond my expectations. I never thought I would reach such a position. The medalists are older than me and more experienced. Before coming here my aim was to make a good impression and I never imagined I could go that far,” Al-Hodhoud told Al-Ahram Weekly. “Now, I feel more responsible. What I have accomplished makes me want to do more for myself and my country. I have to work hard to reach a higher level and my focus will now be on the World Championships and the next Olympics.”
Marksman Ahmed Kamar also placed fifth in the trap event. According to Hazem Hosni, president of the Egyptian Shooting Federation, the two positions were great achievements for Egyptian shooting. “We have never been fifth, even at the World Championships. Afaf's achievement is unprecedented. She is the first woman in the history of Egyptian shooting to secure such a position. We are glad our plans went well,” Hosni told the Weekly.
Weightlifter Ahmed Saad also finished fifth in the 62kg weight category. In swimming, Farida Osman placed 12th in the 100 metre butterfly, another achievement for Egyptian women's swimming while Marawan Al-Kamash came in 24th in the 200 metre freestyle. “Osman was the first Egyptian female swimmer to make it to the semi-finals of the butterfly. She made it in 57.83 seconds, which is a new Egyptian and African record which is really great,” president of the Egyptian Swimming Federation Yasser Idris told the Weekly. “We still have other races to go for today and next week we have diving followed by synchronised swimming,” Idris added.
Also impressive was the qualification of Nadia Negm to the quarter-finals of the individual rowing competition. Those were the most significant results so far.
There were some disappointing performances as well. The most unsatisfactory was the elimination of Egypt's fencer Alaa Abu Al-Kassem, silver medalist in the 2012 London Olympic Games. Al-Kassem beat Alexander Shobenvic of the Czech Republic 15-8 in the first match before losing to Italy's Danielle Garuzu in the round of 16 to bid the event an early exit. Egypt had high hopes this year on the 25-year-old Al-Kassem to make it again to the podium and claim a gold medal. His teammates Tarek Fouad and Mohamed Essam Hassanein were also eliminated from the first round of the competition.
Egyptian handball lost its opening match against Slovenia 27-26 in the last five seconds. Egypt plays in Group B together with Poland, Sweden, Brazil and Germany. It was a very close match and the Egyptians were leading most of the game. “It is our fault we lost the game,” Khaled Hammouda, president of the Egyptian Handball Federation, told the Weekly after the match. “We made some mistakes and it was too late to correct them in the last seconds. We really needed to win the first match. It makes it easier in the coming matches. Now, the players have to focus on the next match against Sweden. We'll take it from there and see how it goes,” Hammouda added. Egypt had previously made it to Olympics handball five times; the best achievement was a sixth place finish at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Volleyball, the other Egyptian team sport in the competition, also failed in its debutant match losing to Poland 3-0 in a one-sided game. Egypt was scheduled to meet Cuba on Tuesday. A victory would revive Egyptian hopes of staying in the competition, while a defeat will mean the showers.
Two of Egypt's judokas, Ahmed Ali and Mohamed Mohi were eliminated from the first round of the 60kg and 73kg weight category respectively. “Both are still young players. They are this year's African champions, but they still lack the experience of facing great Olympic champions. The draw was also tough for the players and they had to fight against top ranked players in the world,” said Ihab Nosseir, president of the judo delegation at the Olympics.
“Our hopes are today in the 100kg weight category in which Ramadan Darwish will be taking part. He is lucky as his draw is better than his teammates. We are keeping our fingers crossed in this discipline,” Nosseir told the Weekly. Egyptian judo has a record of two Olympic medals -- a silver in the 1984 Olympic Games by Mohamed Rashwan and Hesham Mesbah's bronze in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
On Sunday, Egypt's Minister of Youth and Sports Khaled Abdel-Aziz joined the Egyptian delegation in Rio and headed directly from the airport to watch the Egypt versus Slovenia handball match. Abdel-Aziz was keen to go around the venues to follow the Egyptian athletes as they competed in 11 sports.
“I am glad all our athletes have made it to the world's most prestigious sports event. They deserve to be here amongst the world's elite players. They have earned it after training hard and playing strong,” Abdel-Aziz said as he was watching Egypt, the handball African champions.
“This is the best opportunity for our athletes to benefit from being here. Even if they don't win medals, they have still achieved top positions as in shooting and weightlifting. These are still good performances,” Abdel-Aziz told the Weekly, adding, “What is really disappointing is how the negative media reports have led to the athletes feeling depressed. They only talk about losses and defeats. We are at a time when we need to support our athletes so they can go on. Let's not forget that most of the expected medals are in sports yet to be played like the modern pentathlon, weightlifting and taekwondo.
“We are also disappointed that the Court of Sport Arbitration (CAS) has refused to lift the suspension on javelin thrower Ihab Abdel-Rahman who was tested positive for doping. Unfortunately, Ihab submitted his appeal after the deadline had passed.
“Again, I would like to clarify something very important. When we said we are expecting medals by some athletes in some sports and we named those athletes, we did so because according to their scores, records and figures, this means that they are favourites or candidates for medals. But we have seen here in the Rio Games are world champions and former Olympic medalists who came to defend their titles but were beaten by less ranked athletes than themselves. This is sports and anything is possible. There are no guarantees. So let's keep our fingers crossed and hope for the better in the coming days,” Abdel-Aziz said.
Egypt is taking part in 20 sports at the 31st edition of the Summer Olympic Games with 120 male and female athletes, the highest participation for Egypt in its Olympic history.
The Olympic Games runs from 5 to 21 August.


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