For the first time, an Egyptian has won a gold medal at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup when Azmi Mehelba claimed the top medal at the skeet event.
The medal was also won at Mehelba’s first World Cup in which he had a stubborn confrontation with the Olympic champion from the US Vincent Hancock and the host nation Italian Tammaro Cassando who won the bronze medal.
Altogether 125 marksmen took part in the skeet competition which was held in Lonato, Italy. “There were a lot of participants at this World Cup and a lot of champions. This World Cup is a preparation for the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” Mehelba, Egypt’s champion in the sport, told the media.
President of the Egyptian Shooting Federation Hazem Ahmed congratulated the Egyptians for the nation’s first ever gold medal in the sport as he took to his Facebook page. “Congratulations to all Egyptians, the head of state, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and the National Olympic Committee as well as the federation’s sponsors and partners. Their contribution and support in providing the federation and athletes with all required facilities has brought us this extraordinary result.
“The medals earned also happened because of the hard work, seriousness and dedication of our athletes who are now preparing for the Olympic Games, scheduled to take place this July,” Ahmed added.
The 30-year-old Mehelba began shooting at the age of 11 and was selected to join the Egyptian national team in skeet by 14. He made his first international appearance at the age of 15. The Egyptian had represented Egypt in the 2012 London Olympic Games and in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro and was among the qualifiers for the Tokyo Games. He was the first Arab and African athlete to finish in 10th place at the Rio Games, just one target from the finals.
Due to his unequalled achievements in the sport, the shooting range at the Alexandria Shooting Club has been named after Mehelba.
Interestingly, Mehelba’s older brother, Abdel-Aziz earned the bronze medal but in another discipline, the men’s trap event. The Egyptian came behind Kuwait’s gold medalist Talal Al Rashidi and Russia’s Gennadi Mamkin who won the silver medal.
The 32-year-old Abdel-Aziz Mehelba had participated in the 2016 Olympic Games, however, he was eliminated in the qualification round in which he came in 24th place.
The ISSF World Cup shotgun saw the participation of more than 400 athletes from 63 nations and five continents, a 2021 record for the sport. However, the medals were won by only 12 nations.
In the overall result, Egypt finished sixth with a total of two medals, a gold and a bronze. The Egyptians finished behind the US which won seven medals. Italy claimed five medals, Great Britain and SMR were placed third with two medals each, gold and silver, and Spain ended in fifth with a gold and two silvers.
On Monday, Egypt’s Minister of Youth and Sports Ashraf Sobhi received the Mehelba brothers as well as president of the Egyptian Federation Ahmed, during which he congratulated them for their achievement and for making Egyptians proud.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 20 May, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly