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Feast in Cairo
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 20 - 09 - 2016

The under-21 championship saw 211 male and female athletes taking part in five disciplines: the women's teams relay, men's teams relay, women's individual final, men's individual and the mixed teams relay.
The athletes represented 29 nations -- Argentine, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Lebanon, Lithuania, Mexico, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, the US and Egypt.
The five-day event from 12 to 18 September was held at the Cairo Stadium fencing and swimming complexes, while the horse riding and the combined event which included shooting and running were held at the equestrian field within the Cairo Stadium premises. Because of the world championships being held during the Eid, there was a low spectator turnout, which made the visiting teams compete comfortably. The event, which was attended by Klaus Schormann, president of the International Modern Pentathlon Federation (UIPM), saw tough and often thrilling competition among the junior athletes.
On day one, 14 teams embarked on the road to glory in the women's relay of the competition which was being held for the first time on African soil. After a long day of tough competition in the heat of Cairo, it was the Russian team of Alena Popova and Sofia Serkina who held their nerve to become UIPM 2016 junior world champions, leaving Alessandra Frezza and Irene Prampolini of Italy with the silver and Belarus' Iryna Prasiantsova and Volha Silkina with bronze.
Day two saw more excitement in the men's relay which concluded with Serge Baranov and Alexander Lifanov from Russia crowned as champions. The Russians were consistent throughout a competition that saw 17 nations from across the world giving their all for the gold medal. In the end it was Baranov and Lifanov who stood on top of the podium, repeating the success of their women compatriots just the day before. The silver medal went to Lee Jihun and Jun Woongtae of South Korea with Italy's Daniele Colasanti and Gianluca Micozzi clinching bronze to the dismay of the Egyptian crowd, who had pinned their hopes on Sherif Nazeir and Ahmed Hamed who came in fourth, to claim a medal. Despite the eventual outcome, the spectators in the Cairo Equestrian Stadium would not have been surprised to have seen the Korean duo winning the competition.
The third day was one of warm sunshine, perfect weather for South Korea's Kim Sunwoo to conquer the field and claim the title of UIPM 2016 junior world champion in the women's individual final. With a convincing lead, Kim's victory demonstrated that the 14th place she won at the Rio 2016 Olympics Games last month has the potential to propel this 20-year-old Korean athlete to the podium at Tokyo 2020. “I still cannot believe it. It is my first medal even though I participated in so many international competitions this year. I am truly happy,” she said after receiving her gold medal. Italy's Fransesca Tognetti claimed the silver medal while Russia's Sofia Serkina took the bronze.
In the women's team event it was Italy who stood the tallest, represented by Aurora Tognetti, Francesca Tognetti and Irene Prampolini. Hungary claimed silver thanks to Alexandra Boros, Anna Toth and Sarolta Simon. Bronze went to Germany's Anna Matthes, Rebecca Langrehr and Alexandra Bettinelli.
After one of the most dramatic finales ever seen in elite modern pentathlon, Charles Fernandez of Guatemala prevailed in an epic battle with Jun Woongtae of South Korea to be crowned the UIPM 2016 junior world men's individual champion on day four of the competition. Alexander Lifanov of Russia won bronze.
"I am very proud and actually I have no words to describe what happened today,” Fernandez said after the medal ceremony. “This year has been an incredible journey and I have been so close to medals but at the same time so far away. To finish this competition the way I did, I am really happy. After Rio I did not think I was on top form and able to do what I did today.”
The final day was culminated by the teams' mixed relay event which saw the Italians taking the gold medal with a total of 1,428 points followed by France 1,415 and Germany 1,411 points.
"What we saw in this championship was amazing and seeing three continents represented on the podium every event shows that our sports is fantastically well developed in all continents, and that makes me very proud,” Schormann said. “We have a lot of hope for the future as the rising stars of pentathlon have already shown great talent and commitment at junior level. We can already say that this has been a very special and memorable championship."

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