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After 20 years
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 12 - 02 - 2009

Egypt hosted the ninth African Gymnastics Championship following a two-decade hiatus, Ghada Abdel-Kader reports
he championship, divided into men's and women's artistic and rhythmic events, in junior and senior categories, took place from 29 January to 5 February at the Cairo Stadium sport complex. The participating countries were Algeria, Cameroon, South Africa, Tunisia, Nigeria, Namibia, Libya, Senegal and Morocco, in addition to host nation Egypt.
It was only the second time Egypt hosts the African championship after a 20-year absence. "There were some problems with the International Gymnastics Federation and African Gymnastics Union. Egypt stayed away for a long time from the dispute in order to appear neutral and not to lose its seat in these associations," president of the Egyptian Gymnastics Federation (EGF), Amr El-Said, said.
"The Egyptian gymnasts took first place in all events. Preparations for the championship were good. They have great determination and self- confidence," added El-Said.
Egypt's biggest rival in the championship was South Africa. Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia concentrated on two or three senior gymnasts.
"At the end, Egypt and South Africa joined forces to draw up a long-term plan to increase the number of gymnasts," El-Said said.
The results of rhythmic gymnastics came as follows: in the final of the senior teams, South Africa won first place with 114.275 points. Egypt took second place with 103.725. Tunisia won third place with 95.100 points.
In the events of the individual final seniors, Sibongile Mjekula from South Africa won two gold medals in rope and ribbon, and two silver medals in clubs and hoop final. Stepahnie Sandler from South Africa won two gold medals in hoop and clubs and two silver medals in rope and ribbon. Egypt's gymnast Mai Alaa won the silver medal in clubs and a bronze medal in rope while Tunisian gymnast Sheharazade Mami won two bronze medals in hoop and ribbon.
In the all-round final, Mjekula won the first place with total points 57.725, Sandler won the second place with total points 56.550 and Grace Matsetsa Legote won the third place with total score 53.125.
For Sandler it was her first time in Egypt. "I am very happy with the competition. Our team won gold which was great. In the finals, my score was the highest in the competition. In the rope and ribbon finals I suffered a slight drop."
"I dedicate my win today to my father who passed away last year. Every time I compete I tell myself 'don't be afraid, your daddy's here'. It is always for him and myself," Sandler added.
In the junior competition, Egypt won first place with 114.450 points. South Africa was second with 100.475 points and Namibia third with total 98.625 points.
Egypt's African champion Heba El-Bourini won two silver medals in the hoop and ribbon and a bronze medal in rope. Yasmine Rostom won four gold medals in rope, ribbon, hoop and ball events. Nicole Bierbach from Namibia won two silver medals in ball and rope, and one bronze in ribbon. Tunisian Bousselwi Emna won two bronze medals in the hoop and ball finals.
For El-Bourini it was her first time in the African championship. "What differentiates this from any other championship is the huge gathering of many countries," she said. "The gymnasts of South Africa were Egypt's biggest rivals," she added.
El-Bourini did not play in the ball final. "I felt so tried and my blood pressure was low." El-Bourini became so ill that an ambulance was called to give her some oxygen.
In the overall final, El-Bourini was crowned the African individual champion with 57.400 points. Rostom came second with 57.050 points and Gasenthe El-Deeb third with 53.825 points.
"I dedicate my medals to my mother who always stands beside me," El-Bourini added.
In the men's artistic gymnastics results, in the teams final for seniors, Egypt won the first place with total 251.900 points, Algeria won the second place with total 247.700 points and South Africa won the third place with total score 207.600.
In individual all-round final, Tunisian Bouallegue Wajdi won first place with total 84.700 points, Arfaoui Sabeur from Tunisia captured second with 81.900 points while Mohamed Serour from Egypt came in third place.
Egyptian Walid Said won gold in the rings and bronze medal in the parallel bars. Serour won one gold medal in the vault and one silver in the ring finals. Wajdi won one bronze medal in the vault, and two gold medals in the floor and parallel bars. Eslam Shahin from Egypt won two silver medals in the horizontal bars and pommel horse. Abdel-Rahman Sobhi from Egypt won a bronze medal in the horse.
Sabeur won three silver medals in floor, parallel bars and the vault. Guezgouz Karim from Algeria won a bronze medal in the floor and Waldo Cottle from South Africa won a bronze medal in the ring event. Algerian Ferdjani Ali won two gold medals in the horizontal bar and pommel horse finals. Algerian Tahi Belkacem won a bronze medal in the horizontal bar final.
In the juniors teams' final, Egypt netted first place with 245.200 points. Libya came second with 235.750 points and Morocco third place with 224.650 points.
In the individual all-round final, Egyptian Mohamed El-Saharati came out on top. Algerian Metigi Hilal came in second and Egyptian Mustafa Khaled third.
El-Saharti won five gold medals in horizontal bar, floor, vault, parallel bars and rings and a bronze medal in the pommel horse. Khaled took one bronze medal in the rings finals and three silver medals in the floor, parallel bars and vault. Egyptian gymnasts Mohamed Magdi won the bronze medal in the horizontal bar and Sherif Gawdat won bronze medals in the vault finals. Algerian Hasib Amir won a gold medal in the pommel horse and compatriot Metigi Hilal won one silver in the horizontal bar and two bronze medals in the floor and parallel bars finals.
In the women's artistic gymnastics results, in the seniors teams final, Egypt won first place with total 158.850 points, South Africa came in the second place with 152.550 points and Namibia came in the third place with total 120.350 points.
In the individual all-round final seniors, Egypt's Sherine El-Zeini came in first place, Khwela Jennifer second and Salma Mahmoud third.
El-Zeini won one bronze in the beam and two gold medals in the vault and uneven bar finals. Mahmoud won one bronze medal in the uneven bars and two gold in the floor and beam. Norhan Saad collected a bronze medal in the vault and a silver medal in the floor finals. Rwan Tara notched a silver medal in the beam final. South African Khwela Jennifer won two silver medals in the vault and uneven bars and a bronze medal in the floor final.
In the WAG juniors, in the team finals, Egypt took first with 150.750 points. South Africa finished second with 142.300 points and Morocco third place with 125.750 points.
In individual all-round final (juniors), Egypt's Israa Afifi ended in first place and Sandi Effat second while Ashleigh Heldesigner from South Africa took third.
"Unfortunately, the EGF doesn't have enough junior gymnasts," El-Said told Al-Ahram Weekly. "We depend mainly on private clubs in Cairo and Alexandria. President of the National Sports Council Hassan Sakr promised the EGF to use all the facilities of the Faculty of Physical Education in all governorates to spread the game in Egypt."
"On the national level, EGF will fix its administrative aspects and get ready for district and national championships. On the international level, we are preparing for 16th Mediterranean Games in Pescara, Italy from 26 June to 5 July."
The 41st Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in London will take place from 13 to18 October."

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