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Inas Mazhar , Tuesday 4 Jun 2024

Sherif Al-Erian, secretary-general of the Egyptian Olympic Committee and president of the Egyptian Modern Pentathlon Federation, talks to Inas Mazhar about his candidacy for president of the International Modern Pentathlon Federation and Egypt’s chances at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games



“My goal is to transmit the Egyptian experience in the development of the modern pentathlon to the whole world.”

So said Sherif Al-Erian, secretary-general of the Egyptian Olympic Committee and president of the Egyptian Modern Pentathlon Federation who is currently running for the higher post of president of the International Modern Pentathlon Federation.

“I declared my intention to run for the position of president of the International Modern Pentathlon Federation (UIPM) in the next elections. But you should know that the door is not yet open to officially submit my candidacy. The official announcement will be made after the Paris 2024 Olympic Games and the elections will take place during the General Assembly of the UIPM from 15-17 November 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with the presence of 120 countries who are voting.”

Al-Erian revealed his programme for the upcoming elections. “As I said before, my aim is to transmit the Egyptian experience in the development of the modern pentathlon to the whole world. Egypt has made great progress in recent years and is becoming a model to follow. Today, it is Egypt who dominates the podium at the senior, junior and cadet worlds. This was achieved through a scientific programme working on all areas of our sport. So, I aim to pass on our success to other countries. I would like to further improve the situation of the modern pentathlon among the 32 Olympic sports. Our sport is today in the third category of Olympic sports so we face the risk of leaving the Olympic programme in 2028. This situation does not fit with the Olympic history of the modern pentathlon which was a sport invented by the founder of the Olympic Games Pierre de Coubertin as the most complete athletic sport.”

He also unveiled his plans on filling what the International Modern Pentathlon Federation is missing. “After the latest changes in the format of the discipline, the pentathlon is becoming much more popular. At the Paris Olympic Games, the final takes place in 90 minutes, the same time as a football match, which makes the discipline full of vivacity and enthusiasm for the spectators. Then after Paris, the modern pentathlon horse riding event which includes five events (fencing, swimming, horse riding and laser-run, combined running and shooting event) will be replaced by the obstacle. The goal of this change was for the modern pentathlon to be more dynamic, and necessarily more telegenic, in order to maintain our place at the Olympics.

“You should know that we were obliged to replace horse riding with a new sport for the modern pentathlon to remain on the Olympic programme at the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games. So, the discipline is developing more and more but what we are really missing is to have sponsorships. Until now, the UIPM spends its money on the International Olympic Committee and this is not enough for the development of the discipline. So, I have to work deeply on this subject.”

Al-Erian, who is full of revolutionary ideas, confirmed that he would still work with the same administrative team at the international federation. “Yes of course, the administrative team of the UIPM is made up of excellent people with great experience such as Shiny Fang, the general secretary who has great experience. In addition, you should know that in the event of my victory, the headquarters of the international federation will remain in Monaco while the president’s office could be in his native country.”

The UIPM elections though, look tough, not as easy as one would think and Al-Erian is aware it will be difficult. “This year, UIPM President Klaus Shorman affirmed that he is not running for the post of president in the next elections. And so far, only the vice-president of the international federation, the Frenchman Joël Bouzou, has presented his candidacy. We discussed it together. He is a person of great experience. He was an athlete, general secretary of the international federation for 15 years and is currently president of the World Olympians Association (WOA) and a sports advisor to Prince Albert II of Monaco.”

Going for the UIPM president’s seat means that Al-Erian will not go for the post of the president of the Egyptian Modern Pentathlon Federation when elections take place after the Olympic Games.

“Since the last elections I decided that this electoral period will be my last in the Egyptian federation. I have been the president of the Egyptian Modern  Pentathlon Federation since 2012. And I was vice-president of the same federation from 2008 to 2012. During this whole period, I did my best to promote the discipline in Egypt. And the level of Egypt on the international stage affirms that I have achieved great success. But you should know that we have not only worked on the athletes, we have worked to promote the level of all parts of our sport including coaches and administrators. The Egyptian modern pentathlon now has former champions with successful administrative careers. Thus, Egypt has successive generations not only of athletes but also of coaches and administrators.”

As secretary-general of the Egyptian Olympic Committee, Al-Erian said that if he wins the UIPM presidency, he would not continue at the national Olympic committee.

“I would like to focus on the international position which is much more important for Egypt. International positions are very important for the development of Egyptian sports. These positions give more weight to the country. Currently Egypt has only one president who is Hassan Mustafa, president of the International Handball Federation and four vice-presidents: Abdel-Moneim Al-Husseini in fencing, Wagih Azzam in cycling, Alaa Meshref in table tennis and myself.”

However, since he currently leads the Egyptian Olympic Committee as secretary- general, Al-Erian is focusing on preparations by the Egyptian delegation to take part at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

“The preparation of national teams takes place according to the programmes of each federation. According to the statistics, Egypt will be able to win nearly six Olympic medals in Paris. The disciplines with the highest chances are weightlifting, the modern pentathlon, fencing, wrestling, shooting (Azmi Mehelba), and horse riding (Nael Nassar), not to mention handball and football.”

The selection of the Egyptian modern pentathlon team going to the Paris Olympic Games will take place in the World Qualifying Championships from 8-16 June in China with a delegation made up of 10 athletes (six men and four women). The ladies are Malak Ismail, Salma Abdel-Maksoud, Amira Kandil and Heidi Morsi. The men are Ahmed Al-Gendi, Mohanad Shaaban, Moutaz Wa’el, Ahmed Hamed, Eslam Hamed and Mohamed Al-Gendi.

The first three athletes at the worlds (men and women) will win Olympic tickets in 2024.

The Paris Olympics are scheduled to take place from 26 July to 11 August with Paris as the main host city and 16 other cities spread across the country.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 6 June, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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