Olympic games may not be as popular as football, but Egypt winning gold at the Pentathlon World Cup in Cairo remains a remarkable achievement.
“Egypt on top of the world once again,” said Sherif Al-Erian, president of the Egyptian Modern Pentathlon Federation after the Egyptian duo of Salma Ayman and Mohanad Shaaban’s outstanding victory at the Pentathlon World Cup.
It was a show of simply spectacular shooting that proved decisive for the young duo as they raced clear of the field at the American University in Cairo (AUC) which was hosting the event for the first time at their sports facilities at the campus in New Cairo.
The Egyptians topped the podium, followed by Great Britain’s Jessica Varley and debutant Ross Charlton clinching silver with a tough battle behind them for third, which was claimed by the Turkish Duo Bugra Unal and Ilke Ozyuksel, denying another Egyptian duo from making it to the pedestal. The team of Amira Kandil and Eslam Hamad had to settle for fourth place.
The thrilling mixed relay event concluded a hugely successful week in Cairo where the first World Cup of this year, being held in a new cycle, proved that modern pentathlon’s new format brought even more drama during every step of the competition. The format will also be applied at the next Olympic Games in Paris 2024. The Modern Pentathlon World Cup is an annual series of modern pentathlon competitions. The first was held in 1999. A world championship has been held every year since 1949. The competitions include men and women’s individual and team events together with relay events for men and women and, since 2010, a mixed relay event.
Following the medals ceremony, the winners talked to the media about their reaction. Gold medalist Shaaban cherished the victory he achieved together with his teammate Ayman. “It’s amazing for us to win the gold in our country, Egypt. It’s very good for us because we are 22 years old. I think we are younger and growing. In other competitions we will take more top six and 10 places. I hope to continue to be good like today.”
Reflecting on another podium place for a Great British team, Jessica Varley said: “I’m just so excited that we were able to put it together. We knew that we had a really good shot going into the laser run and it all paid off. It was good fun!” she told the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) official website. Her teammate Charlton added: “I’m over the moon. This is my first World Cup so I’m really happy that I was given the opportunity to compete in the mixed relay. We had some ups and downs but we kept it together. I’m so happy.”
The bronze medalists from Turkey also reacted to their win. Ozyuksel told the media that the mixed relay medal was the first of the duo. “We are so happy. I have only won individual medals but now have won a mixed relay medal with my friend today. We pushed so hard. The last 600 meters almost gave me a heart attack but we’re so happy to start the season like this. It’s the motivation we needed.”
UIPM President Klaus Schormann also had his say on the first edition of the World Cup series. “This, for all of us, was a special moment. For the athletes, this new format saw the athletes perform to the highest level. We know it’s not easy to do something new but they have been so impressive. Everything went great in a wonderful environment here. We are so thankful to the athletes and coaches for a special first World Cup of 2022.
“We have seen winners from different countries and continents and that’s important but it’s also important that the athletes have enjoyed this format. We are just starting on the road to Paris. I am sure that as the season progresses, we will have more experiences and learnings of this new way. But this was a big step for us this week.
“This is a new era. I am always happy to see new faces and new names on the podium. It shows our sport is alive. We know that we will change riding after 2024 and make our multisport more accessible around the world. These young athletes compete in the traditional way but they are also the generation for Los Angeles 2028 and that motivates us to do more for them.”
The riding discipline attracted criticism during the 2020 Summer Olympics after multiple athletes in the women’s event struggled to control their randomly assigned horses. This culminated in the German team›s coach being removed from the event after striking a horse with her fist. UIP officials chose to remove the horse riding portion of the event. A replacement sport has yet to be announced.
Al-Erian took to his Facebook account to congratulate his athletes for “another great success story, Egyptian pentathlon creating history”. He was referring to the Egyptian modern pentathlon winning the Best Federation 2021 /2022 award for the second year in a row in a poll carried out by the sports website Tatweeg News.
Ahmed Al-Guindi was named best senior athlete in Egypt and his coach Hisham Suleiman as best coach. Amira Kandil was named second best junior athlete, Moetaz Ezzat second best male youth athlete and Malak Khaled second best female youth athlete. Al-Erian also thanked the federation’s sponsors for their effort to help develop the sport and its athletes in Egypt.
Also, on the sidelines of World Cup One, Al-Erian signed protocols with Uganda and Gambia in order to spread the sport in Africa. “We are dedicated to help our friends from Africa; 54 nations, one family” Al-Erian said. The protocols were signed in the presence of Schormann.
It was the first time for the world pentathlon family to hold one of their competitions at the magnificent playgrounds of the AUC where athletes from 40 countries battled it out at the first edition of the World Cup series.
The World Cup Series, which is being held each year, holds four to six World Cup competitions and a World Cup Final which are organised over a period of three to six months. The whole series is called “The World Cup Series”. These competitions are carried out on several continents. National Federations (NFs) may organise only one World Cup competition in each calendar year, in addition to the World Cup Final.
At the beginning of 2022, the UIPM brought in new changes to some of the sport’s disciplines, proving effective at the Egypt 2022 WC.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 31 March, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.