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Striking gold in Africa
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 06 - 09 - 2018

Egypt's senior and junior athletes took full control of the African Karate Championships which were held in Kigali, Rwanda. The mighty fighters clinched 26 overall medals -- 16 gold, three silver and seven bronze medals to top the medals table of the competition. Thus, Egypt did better than the last edition of the UFAK Senior Championships which was held in Yaounde, Cameroon, in 2017 when Tunisia stole the show with 19 medals including seven gold, followed by Egypt with eight medals and six gold, and Cameroon with 24 medals, including four gold.
According to the World Karate Federation (WKF), the 17th edition of the African Karate Championships was an enormous celebration of the sport and showcased the impact of karate in Africa.
From 31 August to 2 September, the best African karatekas gathered in Kigali where they clashed for glory at the 2018 African Championships. In addition to fighting for the continental title, the top African athletes contended with the aim of acquiring points for the Olympic standing.
Nearly 300 competitors from 22 countries had battled it out for the gold. But, in the end, it was Egypt which showed control and incomparability as it gripped the top spot.
It was Egypt's best international player Giana Lotfi who led the Egyptian success at the three-day event. Lotfi recovered her form and put an end to two years of medal drought with a hard-fought triumph in Kigali. The current world title-holder prevailed in the female kumite -61kg and won her first medal since her victory at the 2016 World Championships. The 23-year-old karateka ruled the competition with an impressive demonstration of efficient karate and a sensational count of 18 points in three bouts. The 2014 continental title-holder recaptured the African crown after defeating Btissam Sadini of Morocco in the final. The Egyptian star spearheaded the successful performance of representatives of the North African country.
Lotfi had enjoyed a three-year medal streak from 2013 to 2016, and had managed to bounce back to the top of the podium after a hiatus of one year from international competition starting in 2017 and after missing the medals in her two appearances this year, the Karate 1-Premier League in Paris and Dubai.
The current women's kata runner-up world championship Sarah Assem claimed one more top award for Egypt in the kata category. Assem confirmed her favourite status and took the Egyptian flag to the top of the podium after edging Sanae Agalmam of Morocco following a split decision (3-2). Before the competition, the WKF had foreseen Assem as the favourite in the category of choreographed movements. The 30-year-old karateka claimed the silver medal in the last edition of the World Championships and won the continental title in 2014.
After his gold medal in the Karate 1-Premier League in Rabat, Egypt's Ali Al-Sawi extended his tally of awards with a victory in Kigali. The front-runner in the men's kumite -67kg became one of the heroes of the tournament after producing an outstanding performance in the final, overwhelming Francois Papa Diouf of Senegal 8-0. Al-Sawi maintained the streak after winning gold at the Karate 1-Premier League Rabat in the male kumite -678kg Mohamed Al-Kotbi and Abdallah Mamdouh Abdel-Aziz in the men's competition, and Aisha Ahmed in the women's kumite completed the list of gold medalists for Egypt in individual categories, while Egyptian representatives also prevailed in the men's team kumite.
On the other hand, the Algerian karatekas closed the event with a remarkable participation in Kigali, as the delegation of the Mediterranean nation reached the top of the podium in no less than seven senior categories, including gold in the women's team kata, team kumite and men's team kata.
Lamya Matoub was one of the Algerian success stories. After claiming gold at the World Games last year, the 26-year-old karateka took the continental title in the women's kumite -68kg. Matoub beat Maman Amina Dione of Senegal 2-0 to take her first gold in major international competitions since her victory at the multi-sport event in Wroclaw last year.
Imane Taleb in the women's kumite -50kg and Widad Draoud in the women's kumite -55kg also took gold for Algeria in Kigali while Hocine Daikhi rounded off the gold medal count for the African country with his title in the men's kumite +84kg.
The event ended in Kigali with a celebration of the sport and the African karate family eyeing the next edition of the UFAK Championships which is scheduled to take place next year in Gaborone, Botswana.

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