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Pentathletes on the podium
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 07 - 09 - 2017

It was a sweet victory for the Egyptians as the one-week World Senior Modern Pentathlon Championships was held at home in Cairo. It was also the first time the championships had left Europe for Africa. For the Egyptian pentathletes, it was also the first time they made it to the tournament's podium.
The victory included a silver medal in the women's relay. Thanks to Mariam Amer and Sondos Abu Bakr, Egypt came in second behind giants Germany and ahead of Japan which claimed the bronze medal. The duo may have finished a distant second but silver was a joyous result for them in front of their home crowd who came out in numbers at the Pegasus Club in 6th October.
Egypt (Amer/Abu Bakr) moved firmly into contention during the riding discipline with a perfect score of 300, with Italy (Claudia Cesarini & Aurora Tognetti) not far behind on 293. Germany (Schoeneborn/Schleu) started the laser-run with a cushion of 27sec over Italy with Egypt 2sec further back.
The hosts managed to move into silver medal position but the big story of the laser-run was the performance of Japan (Shimazu/Yamanaka) whose time was only bettered by fifth-placed Russia (Fraltsova/Ibatullina).
In the Mixed Relay event, Egypt added another silver to to the elation of the crowd. Thanks to Haidi Morsi and Eslam Hamad, Egypt raise its tally to one gold and two silver medals.
“We are very happy with our silver medal. It was a tough course but it was the same for everybody and all the athletes are used to competing here in Egypt on the sand,” said the victorious Hamed following the victory.
One of the locals at Pegasus Club was Egypt's Aya Medani, three-time pentathlete Olympian, a member of the IOC Athletes Commission and chair of the Athletes Committee of the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM).
“This is the first medal for our team in the seniors. It's in Egypt and I'm very pleased and happy,” said Medani. “Mariam and Sondos are like my little sisters. I can't explain how I feel but I wish them all the best.
“Mariam is still young and I hope she will compete in the Youth Olympic Games. They have both just come from the Junior World Championships. They still have a lot more to do this week.”
Germany's Lena Schoeneborn and Annika Schleu have established themselves as the leading female duo in the pentathlon and a masterful performance saw them finish 33sec ahead of the chasing pack. Another team celebrating on the podium of the mixed relay was Japan, hosts of the 2020 Olympic Games, as Rena Shimazu and Shino Yamanaka secured a bronze medal after a gutsy laser-run.
“We had a winning team today comprising the 2008 Olympic champion, Lena Schoeneborn and Annika Schleu, who was fourth in the 2016 Olympic Games. What was very important today is that we had three continents on the podium,” UIPM President Klaus Schormann said.
“This is a clear message that we are a global sport and our teams like to compete in the relay competitions. I hope we can have such great atmosphere in the individual competitions as we had today, and I congratulate the host nation for their medal today which is so important in the promotion of the remaining days,” Schormann said.
Modern Pentathalon Championships
In the men's individual event, the Egyptian duo of Eslam Hamad and Ahmed Hamed, whose final positions of fifth and seventh respectively, allowed the host nation to claim team gold along with Yasser Hefni. Poland secured silver and Russia bronze. However, the Egyptian trio failed, individually, to reach any of the three places on the podium.
“We had an exciting finish and we have a South Korean athlete who is individual senior world champion for the first time in history,” Schormann said. “It was also nice to see the team gold medal go to Egypt who has been waiting for this medal as the organisers. Today's competition was a big success, even though it was not easy for many of our top athletes. This has been a great championships and we are very pleased to have our first champion from Korea.”
According to UIPM officials, the pentathletes of South Korea are starting to become increasingly comfortable when wearing the crown. In 2016, Jun Woongtae and Hwang Woojin proved their calibre at the highest level with gold in the UIPM World Championships Men's Relay in Moscow. In the searing heat of Cairo the duo enjoyed another impressive victory as they defended their title under extreme pressure from a mass of athletes from pentathlon's traditional stronghold.
In fact, South Korea (Jun/Hwang) was the only nation from outside Europe to finish in the top eight, as Germany (Christian Zillekens and Alexander Nobis) claimed silver and Belarus (Ilya Palazkov and Pavel Tsikhanau) took home the bronze ahead of Russia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Poland and Ukraine.
For South Korea, it was another step in the right direction and provided further proof that Asia's most progressive pentathlon nation has become a regular global contender at all age groups.
“We are still competing with other countries in Asia like Japan, but I think we are getting closer to the standard of the European countries,” said the South Korea team coach Choi Eunjong. “Today our team managed to compete well in difficult conditions – it was very hot but we have the same conditions in Korea at this time of the year.”
“We are here at a new facility and we look forward to other exciting competitions this week,” Schormann said. “The World Championships is our most important competition since the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and I hope all the athletes will remain healthy and competing at their highest level.”
Sherif Al-Erian, president of the Egyptian Modern Pentathlon Federation, said the first day of competition “was a great day. We were testing all the facilities and everything worked out fine.
“This is always the most difficult day in any competition and everyone is happy, and the coming days got better every day. The event was a huge success for Egypt. We are glad with our results and glad to be the first country on the continent to host the senior event of the Modern Pentathlon Championships on African soil.
“We are also proud to produce more great Egyptian champions. We have been winning on all world levels now -- juniors, youth and now seniors. But the greatest results and greatest ambition is the Olympic Games which is the toughest event of all. We are looking ahead to the third Youth Olympic Games next year in Argentina and then the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.”
Al-Erian added: “We have made our plans and programmes to ensure that our competitors in both events would be really tough with only one target, reaching the Olympic podium.”

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