Separated by a second

Inas Mazhar , Tuesday 14 May 2024

Egyptian pentathletes were victorious at the extremely close 2024 World Cup in Bulgaria, reports Inas Mazhar

Malak Ismail
Malak Ismail


The Egyptian modern pentathlon team’s journey in Sofia, from 7 to 13 May, has been remarkably successful as the players returned home with a notable four medals.

The Pharaohs concluded their participation in the final day of the event with a gold medal in the mixed relay event, thanks to the duo Mohannad Shaaban and Haidi Adel who hit a score of 1,352 points. China and Mexico came in second and third, respectively.

The Egyptian duo barely edged the Chinese Chin Belang and Joe Youin who scored 1,351 points while Mexico’s Karelo Douelo and Oliver Katherine received the bronze medal with 1,350 points.

The gold medal concluded Egypt’s brilliant participation with Malak Ismail winning the bronze medal in the women’s final while Shaaban and Mohamed Al-Guindi claimed the men’s silver and bronze medals respectively.

The Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) took to their official website to describe the competition as “an exhilarating week of action” which finished on the most fitting note possible as Adel and Shaaban clinched mixed relay gold for Egypt in one of the most dramatic laser run finishes in recent memory. 

“Remarkably, less than a second separated the winners and the other two medalists as a photo finish was required to eventually decide that Yewen Gu and Bailiang Chen of China had pipped Catherine Mayran Oliver and Duilio Carrillo of Mexico to silver by the tightest possible margin, the teams having crossed the line at the exact same time. 

“Pentathlon’s truly global appeal was on show as four separate nations from four different continents had held the lead during the captivating laser run. But it was Egypt’s Shaaban who dug deep in the closing stages to claw back China’s Chen and claim team gold to go with his individual silver which he had clinched earlier in the event, the world No 2 competing for a fifth straight day. Egypt rounded off the week with a gold, silver and two bronze medals in all,” UIPM wrote. 

Following the podium ceremony, gold medalist Adel told journalists how proud she was. “I am so happy with the gold medal. To be going home finally after a long time with no podium, thanks to Shaaban for the great finish. But I’m very, very happy for this medal especially after a tough time with the individual competition. Team Egypt again on the podium — another one.” 

Teammate Shaaban added: “It’s not easy. Now it’s been five days running, more and more, it’s tough. Today was the last day and now it’s rest. See you in China after one month of recovery. That’s enough. We had a great finish with China. I was looking for him, like ‘can I catch him, or no? I can. I can. So I had a great finish, just ahead of them, just one second. A great finish like yesterday. I am so happy.”

Earlier, Shaaban clinched the silver medal while teammate Al-Guindi won the bronze. Shaaban scored 1,500 while Al-Guindi followed with 1,498. Frenchman Pierre Dejardin won the gold scoring 1,502, two points ahead of Shaaban. Blanka Guzi of Hungary and Dejardin came from behind to enjoy eye-catching victories.

In the women’s final, laser run specialist Guzi overcame a significant deficit from a starting position of seventh to win her second Pentathlon World Cup gold, coming from behind as she did last year in Budapest. Jessica Varley of Great Britain was overjoyed with a rescuing silver medal, and teenage prospect Ismail of Egypt highlighted her prowess with a second bronze of the season.

This time it was Shaaban who claimed the internal bragging rights after holding off a late charge from his fellow countryman Al-Guindi whose run/shoot pace had threatened to turn bronze into silver.

Egypt have now won a remarkable 11 medals in four Pentathlon World Cups this season, eight of them in the men’s individual finals.

Bronze medallist Ismail told UIPM media: “It wasn’t easy at all. I started with not very good fencing, just 16 victories, and I didn’t think I could qualify to the final and here I am now. A bronze medalist in the final.

“In swimming I did my personal best for this year, and in the laser run it was really hard but in the shooting, I was in a totally good position mentally. I was able to shoot very well. In the last lap I went out with Rita Erdos from Hungary. I know she is a strong runner and it would be a strong battle with her, but I did it in the end. It feels really different to every previous year, and especially because this is an Olympic year, I’m very proud that I’ve won a second medal,” she said.

Silver medalist Shaaban added: “It’s a second medal, but like I say, I won silver but lost the gold. Not happy with my performance in shooting. Maybe I had more confidence from the semi-final where I shot 20 from 21, and maybe today I thought it would be easy in my head. In the next final I will be better.

“The Egyptian team is very good and this year in every competition we have had two men on the podium. We have so many medals. I’m not happy, but at least I’m on the podium.

“I had this battle before, in Bath last year, the same situation and the same race and the same finish. I love racing with the Al-Guindi, we are so good this year.

“After the last shooting, I went again with Al-Guindi and I thought in my brain ‘finish or no, finish or no’, but I told myself ‘There is 200 metres, let’s go, let’s go’. And I did it.”

Bronze medallist Al-Guindi: “It was so hard for me. At the beginning of the race, I was just aiming for third place but during the race, even after the third shoot, I was getting closer and closer. At the finish, I created a gap but I was unable to give any more.

“After the refusal in riding, I thought everything was done, I couldn’t make it. But when they were repairing the obstacle, I just had a word with myself and said ‘I can overcome’. This was the best thing for me today, that I overcame my riding.”

* A version of this article appears in print in the 16 May, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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