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Medal men
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 02 - 09 - 2004

Egypt left Athens with five medals and its head held conspicuously high
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.
On Monday, Cairo International Airport came alive as thousands of dancing, cheering supporters celebrated the return of the players. The 12- man delegation comprised the five medal winners and several officials.
Gamal Mubarak, the president's son, led a group of high-ranking state officials, including Youth Minister Anas El-Fiqi, Minister of Shura Council Affairs Mufid Shehab and Oil Minister Sameh Fahmi, former Youth Minister Alieddin Helal, together with the governors of Alexandria and Cairo. All were on hand to greet the team that had for the first time in a long time done Egypt proud.
The wins in the Greek capital broke a 20- year drought. Egypt's last Olympic medal prior to Athens was 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.
Gaber said he had been contacted by the World Wrestling Federation. "Someone called 'the big man' called me. I went to a training camp with some wrestlers in Colorado before coming here [Athens]. And when I visited my brother in New York we went to see professional wrestling. It interests me but I still have to decide (whether to do it)."
Egypt's super-heavyweight boxer, Mohamed Ali Reda won the silver medal after failing a pre-fight medical. The 98kg Ali had to pull out because of a shoulder injury. The eldest child and father of 18-month-old Ahmed produced one of the greatest upsets of the Olympic boxing semi-finals, outpointing Cuban Michel Lopez.
The massive 29-year-old, who won a 18-16 decision after a slugging contest, became the first Egyptian to reach an Olympic boxing final but was forced to leave the tournament with a silver medal because of his injury.
Heavyweight boxer Mohamed El-Baz also underwent a medical before his semi-final because of an arm injury and left with a bronze. The 31- year-old thanked his wife for his achievement. "She's the one who organised everything -- my food and training and was always pushing me forward," he said. El-Baz will now have more time to be with his daughter, Nour, born 52 days before he left for the Olympics.
Light heavyweight 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 game. Ismail then lost 18-16 in the semi-final to Aripgadjiev Magomed of Belarus to end up with a bronze medal.
For Ismail, who was born in Helwan in 1975, the prize money came not a moment too soon. "I'll buy a car, a computer, perform the pilgrimage with my wife, parents, in-laws and brothers and sisters. I owe all of them, especially my mother, who used to feed me more than she fed herself because of my boxing."
Another bronze medal was won in taekwondo when Tamer Bayoumi defeated Spain's Juan Ramos in the men's flyweight under 58kg category. The 21-year-old champion from Alexandria is looking to repeat the feat in Beijing 2008. "I'm glad I won and that I'll collect that precious prize money. I'll buy my mother all she asks for because she's the one who guided me to success."
The Ministry of Youth had announced before the Olympics that a gold medalist will win LE1 million, silver medalists will take home LE750,000, and bronze medalists will receive LE500,000, all tax-free. Some believe that such unprecedented bonuses proved a strong incentive and played a major role in Egypt recapturing its Olympic glory.
The winners
KARAM GABER
gold medalist
wrestling
........................
MOHAMED ALI REDA
silver medalist
boxing
............................
MOHAMED EL-BAZ
bronze medalist
boxing
..........................
AHMED ISMAIL
bronze medalist
boxing
..........................
TAMER BAYOUMI
bronze medalist
taekwondo


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