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Too far to catch

With only two days to go before the end of the African Games, Egypt is leading the medals table, reports Inas Mazhar

Inas Mazhar , Friday 30 Aug 2019
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Egypt’s gold medallists Al-Askalani and Al-Ghobashi celebrate the gold medal in beach volleyball Photo: AFP
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From the first day, Egypt took the lead in the number of medals won in the African Games being played in Morocco. Egypt has not looked back since, still in the lead with two days to go upon writing. Barring a shock collapse, Egypt will end up the medals champion of these 12th African Games which, with 54 nations, is the biggest sports competition in the continent. 

The Pharaohs have so far won a total of 229 medals — 79 gold, 87 silver and 63 bronze medals. Nigeria follows with 103 medals: 40 gold, 28 silver and 35 bronze medals whereas South Africa are in third with 77 medals: 32 gold, 24 silver and 21 bronze medals.

Algeria follow in fourth place with 113 medals: 31 gold, 27silver and 55 bronze medals.

Hosts Morocco, called The Atlas Lions, are in fifth with 93 medals: 27 gold, 26 silver and 40 bronze medals. Tunisians, who placed sixth collected 79 medals — 23 gold, 28 silver and 28 bronze medals.

The 12th edition of the African Games is being held under the patronage of King Mohammed VI from 19-31 August. The Games are being held in Rabat, Salé, Temara, Casablanca, Benslimane and El Jadida.

The 2019 edition, which coincides with the commemoration of Youth Day, will be, for the first time in African Games history, a qualification step for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The continental event also marks the participation of more than 6,000 athletes competing in 26 sports disciplines, 17 of which qualify to Tokyo.

Egypt is taking part with a massive delegation of 297 male and female athletes who are competing in 22 Olympic sports: archery, athletics, badminton, 3x3 basketball, boxing, canoe, fencing, gymnastics, handball, karate, judo, rowing, shooting, swimming, table-tennis, taekwondo, tennis, triathlon, volleyball, beach volleyball, weightlifting and wrestling and two non-Olympic sports, chess and snooker.

While the team sports continue, most of the individual sports are done and have resulted in the most medals won so far.

And while Egypt maintained its dominance in some sports, it came up unexpectedly short in others. But in still other sports Egypt surprised.

In gymnastics, the Egyptian women’s team of Farah Sayed, Farah Ahmed, Zeina Sharaf, Nancy Taman and Mandi Essam claimed the gold medal of the all-individual competition, while Farah Ahmed claimed the gold medal of the individual event while her teammate Farah Salem won the silver medal of the all-individual event.

Fencing claimed two silver and two bronze medals. The silver medals were collected by Medhat Moatez in the men’s sabre individual and Noha Hani in the women’s foil individual event. Mohab Samer claimed the bronze of the men’s sabre, while Yara Al-Sharkawi won the bronze in the women’s foil individual event.

Egypt’s triathlon claimed its first ever gold medal in Africa thanks to Basmala Al-Salamoni in the women’s event whereas the mixed team of Al-Salamoni, Rehab Hamdi, Mohamed Gaber and Mohamed Tarek claimed the bronze medal of the team event. Triathlon, which combines swimming, cycling and running, had been recently introduced in Egypt, making it a great achievement according to its president Ahmed Naser. “Winning two medals in our first participation in the African Games is such a great achievement,” Naser said.

The Egyptian shooting couple, Ahmed Kamar and his wife Magi Al-Ashmawi won a gold medal each in the trap event men and women.

Chess also claimed a gold medal in the mixed team event after Ahmed Adli, Bassem Amin, Sherouq Wafaa and Shahenda Wafaa beat Ethiopia 4-0 in the final.

Snooker collected two silver medals in the men’s and women’s individual competition and a bronze medal in the mixed double event.

Egypt’s table-tennis players confirmed their African supremacy by claiming three gold, two silver and two bronze medals for an overall seven medals. The three gold came in the men’s team event, the women’s team event and the mixed event. In the mixed double event, it was an all-Egyptian final as the duo of Omar Asar and Dina Meshref beat their compatriots Ahmed Saleh and Farah Abdel-Aziz to win the gold medal while Saleh and Abdel-Aziz settled for the silver.

Badminton claimed its first Egyptian medal in the history of the African Games, a bronze medal, in the team event.

Swimming won the most medals for Egypt – 41: 14 gold, 18 silver and nine bronze medals. The swimmers played a major role in putting Egypt on top of the standings. Actually, the Egyptians were expected to claim even more medals in the pool, but were stunned with a few upsets, mainly against Egypt’s Farida Osman, the queen of the butterfly discipline. Osman lost the gold medal to South Africa’s Irene Gala in the 100 meters freestyle. Osman claimed seven overall medals including two gold and five silvers. But, it was Gala who was named the best swimmer, winning nine medals including seven gold medals and two silvers.

Despite Osman’s setback, Egypt is celebrating the rise of another swimming prodigy, Hania Moro, who captured six medals: four gold and two silver medals which made her the new queen of long-distance freestyle swimming.

In athletics, Ahmed Shehab claimed a gold medal in the discus. The 21-year old Shehab threw 59.29 metres to claim the gold.

The men’s 3x3 basketball team claimed the silver medal after losing the final to Madagascar 21-19.

Rowing was also another sport that made Egyptians proud, claiming one gold, five silver and two bronze medals.

Judo and beach volley were two sports the Egyptians did remarkably well even before the official opening of the two-week Games. They were the sports that made an early start in the tournament. The two sports were held two days before the official launch of the event.

Weightlifting also made a good start with three gold medals and three silver medals. The three gold were claimed by Ahmed Saad in the 67kg winning the clean-jerk, snatch and the total while the silver medal went to Heba Ahmed in the women’s 49kg event, also in the clean-jerk, snatch and the total.

The beach volleyball duo of Farida Al-Askalani and Farida Al-Ghobashi beat the Kenya duo 2-0 in the final.

In judo, Egypt clinched eight medals — four gold and four bronze. The gold medals were won by Ramadan Darwish in the 100kg, Ali Hazem in the 90kg, Ali Abdel-Moeti in the 73kg and Abdel-Rahman Mohamed in the 81kg, while the bronze medals were won by Mohamed Abdel-Mawgood in the 66kg, Lamiaa Al-Zanan in the 57kg, Abdullah Osman in the 81kg and Kariman Kamel in the over 78kg weight category.  The judokas flew back home before heading to Japan to continue their training camp for the World Judo Championships scheduled to be held in Tokyo from 25 to 31 August, the reason for the judo competition starting before the official opening of the games to give African athletes the chance to join the World Championships.

Taekwondo finished with only two gold medals, eight silver and one bronze. Egypt thus lost the leadership of the sport to Morocco after years of dominance. The hosts claimed five gold medals to lead the standings, followed by Cote d’Ivoire with three gold medals, leaving the Egyptians third with only two gold medals after losing eight category finals. It was an unexpected result for the Pharaohs who have not only been dominating the African continent but the world as well. Egypt’s only two gold medals were won by Hedaya Malak in the 67kg weight category and Mayson Tolba in the 73kg category.

Equestrian also took Egyptian fans by surprise both ways, winning the silver medal of the team event but lost their favourite gold medal.

Karate claimed a total of 14 medals: two gold, eight silver and four bronze medals. A decent haul but more was expected from this sport. Again, Morocco beat out Egypt, reaching No 1 in the standings with 15 overall medals, nine of them gold, compared to Egypt’s one gold, four silver and two bronze medals.

The African Games is a multi-sport contest geared towards advancing top-class African sports and to foster cultural exchanges between the member States of the African Union. It is held in accordance with the provisions of the Sports Architecture in Africa agreed by the fifth ordinary assembly of the ministers of sports, held on 25 and 26 July, 2013 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and endorsed upon the decision of the executive board. The organisation of African Games draws from the Constitutive Act of the African Union and the Statute of the Africa Sports Council.

The first African Games were held in 1965 in Brazzaville. The founder of the Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, who conceived the African Games, rechristened it the Friendship Games, which included French-speaking countries. The first Games were, therefore, held in Brazzaville in 1965 and recognised by the International Olympics Committee. The previous edition took place in Brazzaville, the Republic of Congo, in 2015

The African Games were formerly known as the All-Africa Games. After 11 editions the tournament was renamed the African Games. The decision to change the name was taken during the Executive Council meeting of the African Union held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January 2012.

Egypt has won more medals in the African Games than any other country. Throughout the past 11 editions, the Egyptians have won a total of 1,362 medals — 548 gold, 406 silver and 408 bronze medals. Nigeria follows in second place with 1,199 medals; 424 gold, 395 silver and 380 bronze. The South Africans come in third place with 967 medals won in only six of the 11 editions after the nation was banned from participation because of its apartheid policy. The South Africans won 361 gold, 336 silver and 270 bronze medals.

 *A version of this article appears in print in the 29 August, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly. 

*Number of medals Egypt has won has been updated.

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