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Applause in Athens...
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 30 - 12 - 2004

Five Olympic medals helped offset a miserable bid to host the World Cup. Abeer Anwar and Mohamed El-Sayed review respectively the good and the bad of the 2004 sports year
Egypt's athletes returned from the Athens Olympics to a heroes welcome after winning the most medals in an Olympics in 56 years. Egypt won five medals -- a gold, silver and three bronze -- finishing 46 out of the 202 countries that participated.
The wins in the Greek capital broke a 20- year drought, Egypt's last Olympic medal being a silver in judo in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
The five medals won in Athens -- in wrestling, boxing and taekwondo -- was the country's biggest haul since the 1948 Olympic Games in London.
The gold medalist, 96kg wrestler Karam Gaber, threw his Georgia opponent Ramaz Nozadze three times in a 12-2 decision for the gold.
The gold made Gaber famous overnight and instantly recognisable after his face was plastered on giant billboards throughout the city.
But by the end of the year, rumours swirled around how he had reportedly become a US citizen and would represent the United States in Beijing 2008, and his alleged attacks on the Egyptian sports establishment for not paying him enough money or attention.
Egypt's super-heavyweight boxer, Mohamed Ali Reda, became the first Egyptian to reach an Olympic boxing final but was forced to withdraw with just a silver medal after suffering a shoulder injury in the semis. The massive 29-year-old, weighing 98 kg, had produced one of the greatest upsets of the Olympic boxing semi-finals, outpointing Cuban Michel Lopez 18-16 in a slugfest.
Heavyweight boxer Mohamed El-Baz fractured his hand in the quarter-finals but managed to secure a bronze under Olympic boxing rules.
Light heavyweight boxer Ahmed Ismail was forced to flee the ring in a hail of boos and water bottles when his fight against Greece's Elias Pavlidis was stopped because of cuts on Pavlidis' face in the quarter-final. Ismail then lost 18-16 in the semi-final to Aripgadjiev Magomed of Belarus to end up with a bronze medal.
A bronze was also won in taekwondo when 21- year-old Tamer Bayoumi defeated Spain's Juan Ramos in the men's flyweight under 58kg category.
Egypt's disabled athletes repeated their finish in Sydney 2000 by again ending up in 24th place in the Athens Paralympics. This was despite the fact that in Sydney Egypt won 28 medals, as opposed to only 23 in Athens -- six gold, nine silver and eight bronze.
China was the overall medal winner with a whopping 141.
The largest number of medals for Egypt came from its powerlifters. They brought in 12 medals, tying with China for the most medals in the sport.
The intellectually disabled athletes of Special Olympics Egypt (SOE) returned triumphant from the Middle East and North Africa Games. SOE finished first in the championship in Tunisia, collecting 33 medals -- 15 gold, seven silver and 11 bronze -- from floor hockey, aquatics, basketball, table tennis and unified soccer.
Held once every two years to give a chance to intellectually disabled athletes to express themselves on and off the field, the Games attracted 600 athletes representing 18 countries competing in six sports.
Egypt topped the Arab world with 81 gold, 41 silver and 48 bronze for 170 medals at the Pan- Arab Games in Algeria.
The win gave Egypt seven out of the nine Arab championships.
One of Egypt's stars was swimmer Salma Zenhom who garnered six gold and two silver. The 18-year-old is expected to follow in the footsteps of her great predecessor Ranya Elwani, who won an unprecedented 20 medals in Beirut 1997 and Amman 1999.
Egypt became not only the first country to host the first official World Beach Handball Championship but the first to win the title. It was an impressive moment for the country which unexpectedly claimed the title after a thrilling final against Turkey at El-Zaytouna beach resort. Egypt won 2-1 after taking the first half 13-9 but lost the second half 10-16 to Turkey. In the ensuing penalty shoot-outs out of five, Egypt won 5-0.
The men's all-star team was comprised of Egypt's goalkeeper Hamdi Abdel-Fattah, along with Turkey's Ozgur Eryilmaz, Bahrain's Raid Marzouk and Russia's Sergey Shalabanov.
Egypt's football team won the African Nations Military Cup after beating Mali, the host country, 1-0. In Bamako, Abdel-Hamid Bassiouni scored the lone goal, a well-timed, close-range header, at the end of extra time.
Bassiouni finished top scorer in the championship with seven goals.
Egypt reached the final after beating Algeria 4- 1 in the semi-final.
The win gave Egypt the cup for life after having won it three times.
Also as a result of the victory, Egypt, together with Mali and Algeria, qualified for the military World Cup in May in Germany.
Rami Ashour became world junior squash champion after beating home hero Yasir Butt in the final in Islamabad. Ashour won 9-5, 10-8, 9-3, in just 46 minutes.
A packed crowd, which included the prime minister of Pakistan, Choudhary Shujaat Hussain, applauded the players who were expected to reach only the quarter-finals.
Pakistan failed to take the ultimate prize despite having a record-equalling six players in the quarter-finals.
Ashour received a special trophy from the president of the Pakistani Squash Federation, Air Chief Marshal Kaleem Saadat, then the World Squash Federation (WSF) trophy from President Jahangir Khan, the former 10-time British Open champion.
Ashour brought Egypt's haul of world squash titles to three after Amr Shabana clinched the men's world Open crown in December 2003, also in Pakistan. The women collected the world junior team title in Cairo a little over a year ago.


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