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Champions all the same
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 11 - 09 - 2008

Though Egypt's weightlifters left Beijing empty handed, officials are nevertheless pleased with the results. Ghada Abdel-Kader seeks to understand why
The president of the Egyptian Weightlifting Federation (EWF) is satisfied with the results achieved in the Beijing Olympics -- even though not a single medal was won.
EWF chief Mohamed Ahmed, an Olympic weightlifter in 1960, justifies his claim by citing the example of 69kg female weightlifter Abeer Khalil who lifted 238kg. Khalil, 16, finished in fifth place while the Colombian weightlifter Leidy Solis took fourth by lifting 240kg. "The difference was only two kilogrammes," Ahmed said. "It's ridiculous."
Ahmed may be upset but not so Khalil. "I didn't expect to finish fifth in the Olympic Games in Beijing," Khalil said. Khalil's father added, "I am proud of her. All our neighbours are happy for her. In the 2012 Olympics she will win a medal for Egypt". Dad might be right. Khalil defeated Solis in the 2008 Youth World Championship in Cali, Colombia.
On the Egyptian weightlifting list of finishers, Mohamed Ibrahim finished eighth, Tarek Fouad 11th, Mohamed El-Haddad 12th place, and Abdel-Rahman Mohamed 16th.
Before the Games began, in the African Weightlifting Championship in May, Ibrahim's total score was 286kg, Fouad 305kg and El-Haddad 336kg. In the Youth World Championship in June in Cali, Khalil lifted 233kg and Abdel-Rahman 385kg.
Fouad is 44th in the world and El-Haddad 23. "This shows the great improvement," Ahmed said.
Certainly, not as great as the past. Egypt's weightlifting history is filled with glory. In the Amsterdam Games in 1928, El-Sayed Noseir and Ibrahim Mustafa won gold.
Khidr El-Touni and Anwar Misbah won gold medals in Berlin in 1936. Mahmoud Fayyad won the gold medal in London 1948.
El-Touni was the greatest weightlifter in Egypt -- some say in history. He is in the top 50 of history's greatest weightlifters issued by the International Weightlifting Federation.
"There is big difference between technology, science and development of life between past and present," Ahmed argues. "It is wrong to compare what we were with today. It is unfair because each age has its own measurement of success."
In the last decade, we achieved victory without technology but today we have more than 50 countries participating in the world championship. More than 200 countries participated in Beijing [using the most advanced training systems]."
Ahmed told Al-Ahram Weekly, "In Beijing, the federation was criticised by the media, although the media did not discuss our achievements. " In the 2008 Junior World Weightlifting Championship which Ahmed says is the biggest junior tournament in the world, the Egyptian Under-20 team won seven gold medals.
After the Olympic Games in Sydney 2000, the EWF brought Bulgarian Yourdon Ivanof who coached Iran and brought it two Olympic medals.
"Ivanof put Egypt on the world map," Ahmed said.
When Ahmed became president in 2004, "the sport climate was unstable. It was not known who would be the next minister of sport or minister of youth. There was no opportunity to seek the approval of the National Sports Council to hire foreign coaches.
Egyptian coaches Amr Ramadan and Khaled Orani have been working with Ivanof for four years, which is as good as if they took a training course abroad. "It was a successful experiment," Ahmed said.
"We formed a junior team to provide the national team with players. We chose good ones and tried to make them better by participating in Olympic, African, Arab and European championships for experience."
Ahmed had strong words for medal contenders Nahla Ramadan and Esmat Mansour, calling them arrogant and badly behaved. "Some people made Ramadan believe she's a great champion but that's not true. In order to be a world champion you have to work hard and stick to your training."
Ramadan, 75kg, failed to win any medals in Athens 2004 after being highly touted, but regained her self-confidence, finishing fifth in the world championships in Qatar in 2005. But since the senior world championship in 2006, Ramadan has won nothing of merit.
Ahmed said the best age to start weightlifting was 10 (weightlifters usually retire at age 25). Weightlifting requires power, technique, flexibility and consistency. A weightlifter's strength comes primarily from the legs, specifically the muscles of the quadriceps and posterior chain, and secondarily the back, anterior core, and shoulders. Weightlifting is a full body activity, but these muscles receive emphasis over the others within the body.
Ahmed explains, "There is a misconception that weightlifting is just building muscles. On the contrary, Olympic weightlifting builds healthy bodies with strong bones, flexible joints, and good co- ordination. In contrast, bodybuilding is about aesthetic appearance and size of the muscles. Women lose their feminine physique and their appearance will appear too masculine."
Competitive Olympic weightlifting is about using two specific techniques relying on the legs (the snatch, and the clean & jerk) to lift a weight overhead. Power lifting uses three different lifts relying on the strength of the back, legs and upper body.
The success of the athlete depends mainly on the coach; there must be harmony between both. Weightlifters depend on a certain diet and food supplements according to bodily needs. A weightlifter needs around 4,000 calories a day, trains twice a day and has one day off.
"There will be elections to choose the board," Ahmed said on the EWF's plans for the Olympic Games in London. "The work of the new board will begin from 2008 until 2012. It depends mainly on the newly elected board, how it is going to develop the sport."
Egypt's next test will be the Arab Weightlifting Championship from 15-21 October, the first Arab championship held by the Arab Weightlifting Union. Egypt's men, women and juniors will participate.
There will be two preparation camps; for the men at the Olympic Centre in Maadi for 14 weightlifters, and for women in Port Said with nine weightlifters.

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