Four on the plane

Inas Mazhar , Tuesday 15 Jun 2021

Four Egyptian pentathletes will be going to the Tokyo Olympic Games, reports Inas Mazhar

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Ahmed Al-Gendi and Ahmed Ashraf have clinched two tickets to next month’s Olympic Games. The Egyptian duo earned those spots at the World Pentathlon and Laser Run Championships which concluded in Cairo on Monday.

Al-Gendi took the bronze medal in the men’s event while Ashraf followed in fourth place. The Egyptian men’s team, comprising Al-Gendi, Ashraf and Eslam Hamed, also won the bronze medal in the team event.

The 2021 World Championship, which saw the participation of 500 athletes from 50 countries, was the last chance for pentathletes to win places at the Olympic Games, scheduled to take place from 24 July to 8 August in Tokyo.

Egypt will now have four modern pentathlon representatives at the Games, three men and one woman. In 2020, Haidi Adel and Sherif Nazir earned the first two tickets after winning the African Championship.

“Thank God for our double triumph in the World Championships, a bronze in the individual event and another in the teams,” Sherif Al-Erian, president of the Egyptian Modern Pentathlon Federation (EMPF), told Al-Ahram Weekly.

“It was a great Senior World Championships in Cairo, Egypt, that will be remembered forever. A great performance by team Egypt: Eslam Hamed, Ahmed Ashraf and Ahmed Al-Gendi. Thanks to all our players, coaches, administration, board members, staff, and parents. Good luck to our boys and girls who qualified for the Tokyo Olympics and too bad for those who didn’t and to whom I say ‘never give up and hopefully you can make it to Paris 2024,’” he added.

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“It’s only a month to go for the Olympic Games. We will resume our final training immediately in order to be ready for the Games. The athletes are looking forward to achieving great results in Tokyo. Al-Gendi, gold medalist at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, is now eyeing another medal in the Games. So are the other three athletes, Haidi, Ashraf and Hamed,” Al-Erian, who is also secretary-general of the Egyptian Olympic Committee, said.

Al-Erian took to his social media account to thank all those who supported the federation and athletes. “A special thank you to Dr Ashraf Sobhi, the Egyptian minister of youth and sport for all his support for us, Mr Hesham Hatab, the Egyptian Olympic Committee president and all my fellow board members for all their continuous support of my sport.

Al-Erian also thanked the sport’s sponsors and partners, (“Dr Sherine Helmi, CEO of PHARCO Pharmaceuticals, our main sponsor) for attending and motivating our athletes; Mrs Nermine Shehab (CSR manager of Ahly National Bank, our strategic partner & sponsor) and all her crew (Mr Marwan Atef and all the team).

“We can only promise to do our utmost to try to reach the ultimate goal soon, a medal in the Tokyo Olympics hopefully.”

The World Championship saw Hungary’s Adam Marosi reclaiming the individual world title. On his 37th birthday, Marosi proved that age is definitely just a number. The Hungarian claimed his first world title 12 years ago, in 2009 in Great Britain before winning bronze at the 2012 London Games. According to the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), the governing body of the sport, “he is now likely to get a third crack at the ultimate prize, having earned an automatic quota place at the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Games”.

In Cairo, Marosi was unchallenged in the laser run after he and the Russian Modern Pentathlon Federation (RMPF) silver medalist Alexander Lifanov jointly created an unassailable lead with strong performances across the other three disciplines. For Lifanov, an individual podium confirmed his excellent form after he won gold in the men’s relay alongside Maxim Kusnetzov earlier in the week.

Behind them were the two Egyptians who were seeking the bronze medal and a spot in the Olympic Games. An exceptional performance by Al-Gendi sent the home crowd into a frenzy and gave the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games champion a chance to complete his transition to senior on the biggest stage of all. Ahmed Ashraf, who crossed the line just five seconds after his teammate Al-Gendi, also earned his qualifying ticket to the Games.

The team gold went to Hungary, with Marosi joined on the podium by Bence Demeter (9th) and Richard Bereczki (25th), with Germany winning silver thanks to Liebig and the Dogue brothers Patrick (10th) and Marvin (14th), but the night ended on a high for the host nation as Egypt were awarded bronze thanks to Al-Gendi (3rd), Ashraf (4th) and Hamad (27th).

“My swimming and riding were good. I enjoyed that, but the laser run was so, so hard - the hardest laser run of my life. To be in first position is difficult, and the sand was very deep. Finally I did it and I’m so, so happy,” Marosi revealed after his victory. “In a few weeks I will be 37 years old, and I don’t know who the oldest world champion is but maybe it happened today, maybe it’s me. I hope my national team will say ‘yes’ and I can go to Tokyo,” the Hungarian added.

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“I performed my average in swimming and then had a good ride. In the laser run I could see them coming behind me in third or fourth place and I was very worried I couldn’t save it, but I managed it,” Lifanov said, adding, «It›s my first senior World Championships medal and I didn›t have any medals in the World Cups. And then suddenly, silver. I›m very happy. I can›t explain it.»

Al-Gendi revealed that coming from 15th to third “was a very hard race and a very hard track. I did it, and the most important thing is that I qualified for Tokyo and it›s an automatic place.

«My target was to qualify through the rankings. I didn›t have a very good fence but I closed the gap in swimming, a little bit more in riding and then the laser run - I did it!» the Egyptian bronze medalist said.

UIPM President Klaus Schormann said: “In becoming the men’s world champion in the modern pentathlon, Adam Marosi has shown, like Anastasiya Prokopenko yesterday, that it doesn’t matter what age you are.

“Adam is the oldest athlete and he has performed at such a high level from the beginning of this final, so I think the Hungarian Modern Pentathlon Association – who also won a team gold medal – can be very happy and proud.

“The competition for the men today was very high, as we expected, because they were still trying to qualify for the Olympic Games, to have the best possible placement.

“The conditions were good, the horses and the facilities were well prepared and we’re having a very fair World Championships, and we are looking forward in a few days to seeing the final list of participants for Tokyo 2020 that the real elite of the elite will compete in Tokyo.

“Thanks again to the coaches who have prepared the athletes at a high level, and to the athletes who have never given up the motivation to compete in this season through all the World Cups, the World Cup Final and now the World Championships as an Olympic qualification competition.

“We are very grateful to the Egyptian organisers who arranged this competition in this very difficult time of Covid-19 and we are so happy that we didn’t have to discuss any positive tests or any protests – it has been a fair competition and a great competition,” Schormann said.

In the men’s Laser Run World Championships, the United States completed a senior double and host nation Egypt continued to dominate the youth categories on day two of the UIPM 2021 Laser Run World Championships.

Three-time Olympian, Egyptian-American Amr Al-Geziri, who now plays for the US, took home the senior men’s gold medal 24 hours after the victory of his team-mate and fellow pentathlete Claire Green, winning by 23 seconds ahead of Abdel-Rahman Hussein of Egypt.

Egypt’s Youssef Alyan claimed the junior gold, following six of his youth team-mates onto the top of the podium: Rani Zaid (Under 9), Moutaz Bandari (U-11), Younis Khalil (U-13), Tarek Sadek (U-15), Aamer Edris (U-17) and Moutaz Mohamed (U-19).

In the Masters categories, South Africa Tiaan Rossouw was unbeatable at 40+ with compatriot Johan Windt winning the 60+ title. The 50+ gold went to Emanuele Gambini of Italy.

The UIPM Laser Run World Championships, which was initiated in 2015 in Perpignan, France, is being incorporated into the UIPM Pentathlon World Championships for the second time after the debut of the combined competition in Budapest in 2019.

In the women’s pentathlon event, Belarus equalled the all-time record by winning three consecutive women’s world modern pentathlon titles thanks to a remarkable victory by Anastasiya Prokopenko.

The 35-year-old Prokopenko (BLR) repeated her 2018 triumph by scorching through the laser run field to win Women’s Individual gold at the UIPM 2021 Pentathlon and Laser Run World Championships, picking up where her team-mate Volha Silkina left off in 2019 before the fallow year of 2020.

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It was the first time since Hungary achieved it in 2004 that one country has claimed the title three times in succession. Any disappointment felt in Hungary about losing this record would have been offset by their pride in Michelle Gulyas whose bronze medal secured a quota place for the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Elodie Clouvel of France also had cause to celebrate, having battled her way to a silver medal that gives her an opportunity to be in Tokyo as she aims to repeat her podium performance from Rio 2016.

In the women’s Laser Run World Championships, America’s Green took the top prize and host nation Egypt dominated the youth categories.

Green enjoyed a convincing victory in the senior women’s category, with team-mate Phaelon French securing silver and Pinelopi Nika of Greece earning bronze.

Anna Jurt of Switzerland, who like Green had competed in the women’s individual qualification two days earlier, became junior world champion after winning a much closer race than expected with Johanna Maria Jogisu of Finland. They were joined on the podium by Egypt’s Arig Sarhan.

With youth athletes from Egypt making up the biggest contingent of this global gathering – the first multi-national laser run competition since the coronavirus pandemic – the host nation cheered their youngsters to victory in all but one of the youth categories, with Tatiana Thomatos of South Africa winning Under 13 gold.

Egypt’s gold medallists were Lili Fathi (U-9), Farida Khalil (U-11), Ganah Al-Gindi (U-15), Malak Ismail (U-17) and Hanya Abou Bakr (U-19).

The Masters 40+ title was also won by a local athlete, Rasha Mahmoud, with  Barbara Oettinger of Germany prevailing in the Masters 50+.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 June, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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