Medal match

Inas Mazhar , Tuesday 3 Aug 2021

Egypt’s men’s handball team made its own history after reaching the semi-finals of the Olympics, reports Inas Mazhar

Egyptian handball
WHETHER they win or lose against France today, the Egyptian handball team has already made history and made Egyptians proud. The Pharaohs have become the first Egyptian, African, and Arab handball team to reach the semi-finals of handball in the Olympics, doing so in Tokyo 2020. They have two chances to step onto the most sought after sports podium to receive a medal if they beat France and go to the final for either the gold or silver medal. If they lose, they will have one last chance to win a medal, the bronze. If they lose the play-off, they will at least have won the hearts and respect of all. (photo: AP)

Egypt beat Germany 31-26 in the quarter-finals of 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the first time an Egyptian handball team has appeared in the semi-final, making this team’s generation the most successful and Egypt a potential medal winner.

The half-time lead was in Egypt’s favour, 16-12.

Egypt’s stalwart goalkeeper Karim Hendawi made 18 saves while Ali Zein was Egypt’s top scorer with five goals out of six shots.

Egypt has now become the first African and Arab team to qualify for the semis in handball in any Olympics.

Egypt will meet France on Thursday 5 August after it beat Bahrain 42-28 in another quarter-final.

Aly Zein
Aly Zein in action against Germany


Spain takes on Denmark in the other semi-final. Spain beat Sweden 34- 33 while Denmark defeated Norway 31-25.

Egypt’s previous handball best was a sixth place finish at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Egypt’s best ever finish in a team sport in the Olympics was fourth place in football in the 1964 Games, also staged in Tokyo.

It was a remarkable participation for the Egyptian handballers in Tokyo. In the group stage, Egypt won four of its five matches, against Japan, Portugal, Sweden and Bahrain, and losing to world champions Denmark. The Egyptians finished second in their group.

Egypt’s modern pentathletes and karaketas kick off their participation in the Olympic Games on 5 August with high hopes to add more Olympic medals to the country which as of writing has two bronze, both in taekwondo.

Two men in the modern pentathlon, Ahmed Al-Gendi and Ahmed Ashraf and two female athletes Haidi Morsi and Amira Qandil are looking to battle it out in their quest for Olympic glory.

Five athletes will represent Egyptian karate at the Games: Gianna Farouk, Feryal Ashraf, Radwa Al-Sayed, Ali Al-Sawi and Abdullah Mahmoud.

This is the first time karate was included in the Olympic Games but will not be included in the Paris 2024 Games and might not reappear again in the Games.

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Laila Ali and Hanna Hiekal


Realising this could be the first and last time, karate athletes all over the world, especially those participating in the Tokyo Games understand how lucky they are to be taking part at the Olympic Games in matches which are expected to be intense as every athlete is seeking to win an Olympic karate medal for perhaps the last time.

Egypt is taking part in the Olympic Games with a whopping delegation of 134 athletes in 23 sports, the highest in its history. The first week of the Games saw the Egyptians competing in football, handball, taekwondo, triathlon, shooting, swimming, fencing, badminton, table tennis, rowing, sailing, gymnastics, judo, archery and tennis.

Tuesday was a big day for Egyptians who because of the seven-hour time difference between Cairo and Tokyo, were forced to remain awake all night to follow the Egyptian athletes as they fought for Olympic medals or tried to qualify for the finals of their respective sports.

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Hassan


In Greco wrestling, Egypt was a contender to win two gold medals by the two-time world champion Mohamed Ibrahim Kisho in the 67kg category and Mohamed Metwali in the 87kg. However, both lost their semi-final matches and had to play for the bronze medals on Wednesday, after Al-Ahram Weekly had gone to press.

The mighty Kisho made it to the semi-final but lost to Ukraine’s Parviz Nasibov 7-6 despite taking the lead 6-4 until the last eight seconds of the game after the Egyptian lost his concentration at a crucial time.

In the 87kg, Metwalli lost another semi-final encounter, this one to Hungary’s Viktor Lorincz 9-2. The Hungarian appeared to be more focused and was more experienced than the Egyptian as he dominated the match. Metwalli and Kiso are scheduled to play for the bronze medal.

In equestrian, Egypt’s Nayel Nasser on his horse Igor Van de Wittemoere qualified for the final of the individual jumping event which was also scheduled to take place on Wednesday 4 August. The 30-year-old Egyptian came in sixth place of qualification with a time of 88.42secs. Teammate Mohamed Zeyada also qualified on his horse Galanthos SHK. The 26-year-old clocked 91.71secs.

According to equestrian qualification rules of the individual jumping event, the best 30 athletes, including those tied for 30th place, after the individual qualifier, progress to the individual final.

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Kisho


In the shot put, Egypt’s Mustafa Amr reached the final after throwing a personal record best of 21.23m, a season best record for the athlete. The 25-year-old was ranked third in his group A qualification.

Even though the second week of the Games have yet to produce any medals for Egypt, a few athletes were close to stepping up on the podium.



In table tennis, Egypt’s Omar Assar became the first Arab athlete to reach the quarter-finals at the Olympic Games, losing to legendary Chinese Ma Long, the gold medalist of both the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Games.

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Mohaymen


In diving, Mohab Mohaymen made it to the finals in the 3m springboard for the first time in Egypt’s history of 73 years. The 24-year-old stunned with his impeccable performance and qualification to the final among the world’s top 12 divers. He placed 11th.

Egypt’s last best place in this sport was at the London 1948 Games when Kamal Ali Hassan came seventh in the same event and 12th in the 10m springboard.

Egypt has two Olympic diving medals, a silver and a bronze, both won by Farid Semeka in Amsterdam 1928 in the 3m and 10m springboard events.

In fencing, the men’s sabre team ended in fifth place, the highest for Egypt in the history of the Games. In the same sport but individually, both Mohamed Hamza and Mohamed Al-Sayed made it to the quarter-finals in both the foil and epee events.

In trampoline, Egypt’s Malak Hamza and Seif Asser finished ninth and 10th respectively, an historic achievement for Egypt which was making its first appearance in this discipline of gymnastics.

Egypt’s Under-23 football team also made it to the quarter-finals of the world’s most popular sport, but lost to Brazil 1-0 in a game where goalie Mohamed Al-Shennawi, who plays for Ahli and was one of the three over-aged players chosen for the Olympics, was chosen the Man of the Match after saving his team from a heavy defeat. The Brazilians beat Mexico in the semi-final to play for the gold/silver medal in the final.

By Tuesday, six Arab nations added more medals to their tally with Qatar leading in first place with two gold medals in weightlifting and the high jump. Fares Ibrahim, who is of Egyptian origin but has Qatari nationality, claimed the gold in weightlifting while Mutaz Barshim took the other gold in the men’s high jump.

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Ibrahim


Tunisia’s Ahmed Hefnaoui scooped up a surprising gold in swimming while a silver in Taekwondo was garnered by Ahmed El-Gandouby. Morocco has one gold medal in athletics bagged by Soufiane El Bakkli in the 3000m steeplechase.

Jordan has a silver in taekwondo won by Saleh El-Sharbati. Kuwait claimed a bronze medal in the shooting skeet collected by Abdullah Al Rashid while Egypt’s two taekwondo bronze medals were claimed by Hedaya Malak and Seif Eissa.

Altogether 11,000 athletes from 206 countries are battling for gold, silver and bronze medals in Tokyo.

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Barshim


For the Games, the hosts have produced 5,000 Olympic medals from 78,985 tons of recycled electronic devices, which include digital cameras, laptops, hand-held games and a whopping 6.21 million mobile phones.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games concludes on Sunday 8 August.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 5 August, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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