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Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 26 - 07 - 2007

Egypt ended atop the medal standings at the conclusion of the All-Africa Games. From host nation Algeria, Inas Mazhar reports on the neck-to-neck finish
Egypt topped the medal standings of the ninth All-Africa Games with an overall total of 199 medals -- 74 gold, 62 silver and 63 bronze. Though host country Algeria finished with more medals, Egypt had more gold, thus the first place finish.
Despite finishing second, the hosts appeared satisfied with their results. Their 203 overall medals -- 70 gold, 58 silver and 75 bronze, surpassed Egypt as well as local expectations.
South Africa was third with 180 medals -- 61 gold, 66 silver and 53 bronze. Nigeria was fourth with 159 medals -- 50 gold, 55 silver and 54 bronze. Tunisia came in fifth with 146 medals -- 48 gold, 41 silver and 57 bronze medals.
Monday night's closing ceremony at the 5th of July Stadium in Algiers came after nearly two weeks of hotly-contested events which lived up to expectations. Several national and African records were smashed during this major continental sporting event which also saw the emergence of genuine champions and hopefuls who proved their talent by boosting their respective countries' ranking in the overall standings with hard-won medals.
Egypt entered every sports event. It won three medals in three of the four team sports it took part in; two gold in handball and volleyball and a silver in basketball. The football team was eliminated in the group stage.
In weightlifting, Egypt took the lion's share of medals, winning 40 -- 23 gold, 11 silver and six bronze. Nigeria was second with 37 medals. Hosts Algeria came third with 11 medals. However, and for the first time, Nigerian women topped the Egyptians. Fathi Zoreik, Egypt's head coach, explained that the Egyptians were all younger than their Nigerian competitors. "Our girls are still teenagers but the Nigerians are in their twenties and thirties," Zoreik said. "They are more experienced. But I want to assure everyone that in a couple of years, no one will pass Egypt."
Other Egyptian results included three gold, five silver and seven bronze in fencing. Sailing claimed only one bronze, wrestling seven gold, four silvers and five bronze and boxing two gold, one silver and two bronze.
Tennis claimed three silver medals and three bronze medals while table tennis got one gold, three silver and three bronze.
Karate gave us four gold, six silver and five bronze. From badminton we received one bronze. The handicapped chipped in with three gold, two silver and five bronze. Taekwondu bagged six gold, two silver and three bronze medals.
The shooters racked up three gold, five silvers and two bronze. Rowing won two golds, two silver and five bronze, athletics three gold and three silver and gymnastics five gold, five silver and four bronze.
Chess captured eight gold, three silvers and one bronze.
The last day in athletics was dominated by Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, and to a lesser degree, Sudan and surprising Botswana.
In basketball, not surprisingly Angola won the gold, defeating Egypt 56-50 in the final. In the women's event, Senegal eased past Nigeria 60-46.
In women's football, favourites Nigeria thrashed South Africa 4-0, successfully defending their 2003 Abuja title.
Men's football got the honours at the closing ceremony when Cameroon and Guinea battled it out at Blida's stadium for the gold medal. The winners were the Cameroonians 1-0. Silver went to Guinea and Tunisia defeated Zambia 1-0 for the bronze.
While Egypt failed to impress in swimming, which it usually does well in, South Africa dominated the pool, winning 25 gold out of 53 medals. They also snatched 16 silver and 12 bronze medals.
South African swimmers declared their ambitions from day one, snatching two- thirds of the gold medals. They were seldom tested, given only minor problems by Algeria, Zimbabwe and Kenya. South Africa's supremacy was especially clear in the relays, winning all of them (six out of six).
With seven gold out of 15 medals overall, Zimbabwe finished runner-up in swimming. The biggest difference with South Africa was Zimbabwe's Kirsty Coventry, a multi-Olympic medallist in the 2004 Athens Games.
Algeria was not left out in the water, snatching four gold out of 16 medals overall. Salim Iles (50m, 100m freestyle), Nabil Kebbab (200m freestyle), and Sofiane Daid (200m breaststroke), all claimed a gold for their country.
Kenya was next in the overall swimming standings with three gold out of eight medals overall, won by Jason Dunford, a bronze- medallist at the world championships hosted by Melbourne in March.
The absence of Oussama Mellouli affected Tunisia's haul of 12 medals overall and one gold snatched by Ahmed Mathlouthi, who distinguished himself during the Games alongside sister Maroua.
Egypt's performance was average with four silver and six bronze medals, which earned the country sixth place in the overall pool standings.
Nigeria, Senegal, and Zambia put together won five medals (one silver and four bronze).
Swimming was also marked by 33 African records broken, meaning 80 per cent of the events. Some records date back 10 years ago, evidence of the sport's development in Africa.
In handball, Egypt (men) and Angola (women) captured gold. The Egyptians defeated Algeria 29-21, while Angola proved too strong for the Congo (35-22).
In spite of the local support, Kamel Akeb's men were unable to deal with Egypt. The Egyptians sealed the first half in their favour (13-10) and continued to put pressure on the locals, whose defence proved shaky against every counter attack from the opposite camp, in the second half, On their last legs, due to a rather disturbed training camp, Akeb said the Algerians simply ran out of steam.
In the women's final, contested at the Olympic Dome, Angola had not trouble getting past Congo 35-22.
Two athletes tested positive for doping. The cases concerned Nigerian Udoh Blessed (weightlifting, 48kg class) and Angolan Rulo Nuno (swimming). Both athletes, who took drugs prohibited by the Wold Anti-Doping Agency -- diuretic by the Angolan and an anabolic steroid by the Nigerian -- were immediately suspended from competing in the Games. The committee stripped Blessed of the three medals (one gold, one silver and one bronze) she had won, while the results recorded by Nuno, who did not win any medals, have been cancelled.
The athletes can ask for a new test, but would have to pay for them. They can lodge an appeal in the international sports court. A total 630 anti-doping controls had been carried out in Tunisian and Parisian laboratories since the beginning of the Games, with an average of 30 controls per day.
In other developments, Djaafar Yefsah, the managing director of the organising committee of the Games, told reporters Algeria was not intending to organise the Afro-Asian Games even though "Algeria has been preparing to host this sporting event for a long time. Africa is ready and the best of its athletes are here in Algeria. Unfortunately, the Asian side has so far confirmed the participation of only 17 countries.
"When we organise African Games of this scope, the Afro-Asian Games become a dessert," Yefsah said. "Sincerely, in terms of the number of athletes, it is not much. There will be only 3,000 athletes whereas for the African Games 12,000 athletes were present in Algeria."
Only eight disciplines are on the agenda of the planned Afro-African Games whereas 28 disciplines were included in the All-Africa Games. "Therefore, we flatly refuse to host a mini Afro- Asian Games and the ball is now in the opponent's court," Yefsah said.
Lassana Palenfo, president of both the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) and Afro-Asian Games Councils, said he had sent a letter to Algerian Youth and Sports Minister Hachemi Djiar, to request the Games be postponed due to "the impossibility to organise them on the dates agreed on." The Afro-Asian Games were scheduled for 24 July to 5 August.
"We were expecting to host more than 500 athletes," Palenfo said. "Unfortunately, less than 150 are indeed ready for these Games," he said, pointing out that in some sports not one name of a single athlete is on the starting list.
The date for the Afro-Asian Games shall be decided in agreement with the Asians, Palenfo said. "Africa is ready to host these Games. However, Asians failed to line up their Asian Games gold medallists."

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