19 years later

Abeer Anwar , Tuesday 24 Oct 2023

Egyptian Olympic wrestling gold medallist Karam Gaber has made a comeback of sorts, reports Abeer Anwar

Karam Gaber



Olympic gold medallist Karam Gaber, who won the first gold medal for Egypt in Greco-Roman wrestling after almost 50 years, took another gold medal but this time in the Veteran World Championship, again held in Greece where it all began.
Gaber, now 44, made his comeback in style, beating Yessentay Khapar of Kazakhstan 9-0 in the 88kg weight category.
Evgenii Glazkov (AIN) and Karapet Kirakosyan of Sweden both won bronze medals.
Gaber made history by clinching Egypt's first Olympic gold medal since 1948, at Athens 2004. Although Gaber won silver in London 2012, he was denied the opportunity to feature at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro after being found guilty of evading a drug test, prompting the United World Wrestling to hit him with a two-year suspension, a ban that ended in August 2017.
The ban ended years of achievement for Gaber, having been embroiled in numerous disputes and controversies that blighted what otherwise looked like a glittering career.
In Athens 2004, Gaber thrashed Poland's Marek Sitnik 6-0 in his opening game before going on to comfortably beat Georgios Koutsioumpas of Greece 11-6 en route to topping Group G.
But it was the latter stages where Gaber stunned the world with two breath-taking victories, needing only 1 minute, 9 seconds to toss world champion Mehmet Ozal three times during an 11-0 semi-final decision to avenge a loss in the 2002 world finals.
Against Georgia's Ramaz Nozadze, Gaber needed a slightly longer 3 minutes, 22 seconds to throw the then-junior world champion three times in a 12-2 refereeing decision to take the gold medal.
The way the Egyptian demolished his opponents en route to the prized medal was a ruthless demonstration of power, easily cruising to victory in the decisive latter stages as if he was competing in an amateur tournament.
"I can’t express how joyful I am to be able to return to shape and compete and beat to top the podium with the gold once again," Gaber said proudly following his latest emphatic gold medal.
However, Gaber’s return to gold has been chaotic. In addition to his Rio ban, in 2007, the Alexandria-born wrestler was handed a three-year prison term by an Egyptian court for assaulting a cab driver but the sentence was suspended.
A first-round exit from the 2008 Beijing Olympics was a natural outcome after such a tumultuous period, as he waved goodbye to the Games following a defeat by Albania’s Elis Guri.
Gaber had led the way for more than 100 Egyptian athletes at the Beijing National Stadium on 8 August as the flagbearer of the Egyptian delegation in Beijing.
His silver medal in the 2012 London Olympics was proof he still had the abilities. He refused to bide his time without featuring in a major tournament, taking part in the 2016 US Sumo Open where he won the bronze medal.
But he has over the years voiced his dismay over "negligence" from sports officials, citing the lack of "appreciation he deserved as an Olympic champion" as a reason for his frustration.
Still, Gaber defied the odds by winning gold at the Veteran World Championship to prove to all that it’s never too late and that you can stand up after many bad falls.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 26 October, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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