Glittering in the water

Abeer Anwar , Tuesday 14 Nov 2023

The Egyptian Para swimming national team captured six medals at the Citi Para Swimming World Series 2023 Championship attended by Abeer Anwar

 

The New Administrative Capital Club Swimming Pool in Cairo hosted the Citi Para Swimming World Series 2023 Championship that took place from 10 to 12 November under the auspices of Ashraf Sobhi, Egypt’s minister of Youth and Sports.

Para swimming is a sport for athletes with disabilities and the World Series is being used as a qualifying event for the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games.

The tournament included 14 countries: Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Turkey, Bosnia, the Netherlands, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Spain, India, Finland, Estonia, France, Kyrgyzstan, and Egypt, the host country.

President of the Egyptian Paralympic Committee (EPC) Hossameddin Mustafa stressed that holding the event in Cairo, specifically in the New Administrative Capital, was “an honour and a confirmation that Egypt is always capable of hosting the most important and largest sporting events with the support of the Egyptian state and its leader President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi who gives great importance to sports in general and Paralympic sports in particular.”

Mustafa said sports for people with disabilities were witnessing a new era of attention and challenges “under the wise leadership of the president, especially after the world praised Egypt for hosting major international championships.”

Mustafa thanked Minister Sobhi for his continued support of the EPC.

He added that the EPC decided to cancel all celebrations, and the opening ceremony, which is customary when hosting sporting events, in solidarity with the Palestinian people in the ongoing conflict with Israel.

Egypt took six medals mainly by way of Wardshan Mohamed who won a silver medal in the 100 m butterfly and a bronze in the 400 m freestyle. Mohamed also added a bronze medal in the women’s 100 m backstroke, bringing her total to three medals.

Ayatallah Ayman also won the gold medal in the 400 m freestyle while teammate Malak Abdel-Shafi won the bronze medal in the 50 m backstroke and Ahmed Hashad garnered the bronze medal in the 100 m breaststroke.

The Egyptian team was composed of Sherif Habib as technical director, Amr Abul-Dahab general coach, and Walid Abdel-Qader both a coach and administrator.

Sobhi was keen to attend the second day of competition during which he praised the success of the tournament’s organising committee headed by Mohamed Yehia and the role of the EPC board of directors led by Mustafa, stressing that the tournament succeeded as a result of the “great support” that Egyptian sports enjoys in the era of President Al-Sisi.

Sobhi was keen to take photos with the Egyptian team in addition to presenting medals to the winners.

This was the first edition of the World Series to be held in Africa with 74 Para swimmers competing.

Finland topped the medals table followed by Turkey in second and France in third. Finland’s Nader Khalili and France’s Assya Espiau topped the individual medals table in the men’s and women’s events, respectively.

S14-swimmer Khalili finished the World Series with five gold medals. The 21-year-old won the men’s 200 m and 400 m freestyle, 200 m medley, 100 m butterfly, and 100 m breaststroke.

His teammate Jenna Rajahalme (S10) grabbed the other two golds for their country in the women’s 50 m and 100 m freestyle.

Espiau led France to the top three owning, four out of five gold medals for her country. The 17-year-old triumphed in the women’s 200 m freestyle, 200 m medley, 100 m breaststroke and 100 m backstroke.

Maely Chevallier (S14) added the other gold to France’s medal tally in the women’s 100 m butterfly. Chevallier also grabbed two silver medals in a French one-two podium with Espiau in the 200m medley and 200m freestyle.

Another S14 swimmer, Nathan Maillet completed the French medal collection in Egypt with a silver in the men’s 100 m butterfly and 200 m freestyle, in addition to a bronze in the 100 m backstroke.

Swimmers were classified according to the type and extent of their disability. The classification system allows swimmers to compete against others with a similar level of function.

Both Craig Nicholson, head of World Para Swimming, and Nicole Burns, director of World Para Swimming, were dazzled by the New Administrative Capital as the venue for the Citi Para Swimming World Series.

Both praised the sports facilities as well as the weather and atmosphere in which the tournament took place.

Nicholson and Burns thanked the EPC, headed by Mustafa, and its board members for the “great effort made by everyone to seriously prepare the launch of such a major event”.

The international duo said Egypt “is a large country and is always ready to host the most important sports events,” and that what they saw at the New Administrative Capital was “a miracle, as this international swimming meet was established in a very short period.”

Nicholson told Al-Ahram Weekly: “The Citi Para Swimming World Series 2023 being held in Cairo for the first in the African region is really positive. It provides more opportunities for all swimmers from around the globe.

“Egypt was one of the nations that was interested to host the championship and they were able to confirm that they have the venue and will be able to host the event. The pool here is good. It is in good shape and we will come again next year for a new edition here in Cairo. This is a qualifying event for the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games and that is why it is considered an important station for the swimmers on their road to Paris.”


* A version of this article appears in print in the 16 November, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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