Medals won and expectations defied: How Egypt's athletes fared at Tokyo 2020

Ahram Online , Ahram Online , Sunday 8 Aug 2021

Egypt records its biggest ever medal haul in a single Olympic Games, with some outsiders also punching above their weight in Tokyo

Olympic medallists

Tokyo will be remembered as the host city of a memorable Olympic Games for Egypt.

The country won six medals for its biggest ever tally, bettering its five-medal haul in 1936, 1948 and 2004.

While the 1936 and 1948 Games were more remarkable because Egypt had won two golds on each of the two editions, Tokyo still marked the best Olympics for the country in over 70 decades.

Ahram Online looks back at Egypt's medalists and those who came close to glory after defying expectations:

Hedaya Malak (taekwondo, women's -67kg)

Hedaya Malak
Hedaya Malak

Having been one of only two Egyptian athletes who had won previous Olympic medals, Malak was tipped for big things.

She duly delivered despite changing her weight class to win another bronze medal in the women's 67kg category.

After a bitter 13-12 loss to Britain's Lauren Williams in the quarter-final, Malak kept alive their hopes of another bronze medal after defeating Malia Paseka of Tonga 19-0 in the repechage.

She then produced another superb display to beat American Paige McPherson 17-6 and claim a thoroughly deserved bronze.

"Thanks to God, it is the result of five years of hard work since the end of the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro," Malak told Ahram Online.

"I cannot express my feelings of happiness and joy to make my homeland and the Egyptian people happy and proud."

Seif Eissa (taekwondo, men's -80kg)

Seif Eissa

Eissa was not one of Egypt's pre-Games medal favourites but he surprised observers to give the country another bronze medal in taekwondo, shortly following Malak's win.

He started his campaign by easily beating Australia's Jack Marton 11-1 before overcoming 2019 world champion Simone Alessio of Italy 6-5 in a very tight contest.

In the semis, he lost 13-1 against Russian Maksim Khramtcov, who went on to win the gold, but made amends by defeating Norway's Richard Andre Ordemann 12-4 to become only the third  taekwondo fighter to win an Olympic medal for Egypt after Malak and 2004 bronze medalist Tamer Salah.

"This victory was very special to me, it marked my birth as a professional athlete," Eissa said.

Mohamed 'Kesho' El-Sayed (Greco-Roman wrestling, men's -67kg)

Mohamed Kesho
Mohamed Kesho

Kesho said before the Tokyo Games he was eager to follow in the footsteps of Egypt's iconic wrestler Karam Gaber, who won a gold medal in 2004 and silver in 2012.

He lived up to his promise, and although he looked capable of reaching the final, his bronze medal win was satisfactory on his Olympic debut.

Kesho enjoyed a 6-4 lead with less than 30 seconds remaining against Ukraine's Parviz Nasibov in the semi-final. However, he opted to merely defend with the clock ticking towards the end, allowing Nasibov to overturn the deficit and win 7-6.

Despite the heartache of losing in this manner, Kesho redeemed himself in the third-place contest, defeating 2018 world champion Artem Surkov of Russia by points after a 1-1 draw.

"Karam Gaber motivated me before the Games. He had full confidence in me. He is an international iconic figure in wrestling," Kesho said.

Giana Farouk (karate, women's kumite 61kg)

Giana Farouk
Giana Farouk

Nicknamed the Karate Queen, Giana Farouk shouldered Egypt's hopes of winning a gold medal on the sport's first appearance at the Olympics.

A two-time world champion in 2014 and 2016, she marched to the semi-final after winning three matches in her group to finish second.

However, she had to settle for bronze after losing by Hantei to China's Xiaoyan Yin, the 2019 Asian champion and 2018 World Championship silver medalist, in the semi-final following a 1-1 tie and amid refereeing controversy.

"I'm sorry, I wanted to take gold and I did my best, but this is God's will," Farouk said.

Ahmed Elgendy (modern pentathlon, men's individual)

Ahmed Elgendy
Ahmed Elgendy

While all eyes were on karateka Feryal Abdelaziz on the penultimate day of the Olympics, Ahmed Elgendy swept to a historic silver medal, Egypt and Africa's first ever medal in modern pentathlon.

The 21-year-old came second in the overall ranking with 1477 points, with Great Britain's Joseph Choong winning the gold after finishing on top with 1482 points, setting an Olympic record in the process.

Elgendy timed 1:57.13m to finish fifth in Heat 6 of the swimming 200m freestyle, came 15th in the fencing bonus and ranking rounds after scoring 209 points and finished 11th in riding with 289 points.

He made a stunning comeback in the laser run, finishing second on 668 points to give Egypt its first silver medal in Tokyo.

"It was a dream and it came true. It was hard work and here I am with the silver medal at the Olympic Games. The medal is very heavy. I never expected it to be this heavy," said Elgendy, who also won a gold medal at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics and a bronze at the World Championship in Cairo earlier this year.

Feryal Abdelaziz (karate, women's kumite +61kg)

Feryal Abdelaziz
Feryal Abdelaziz

Abdelaziz stole the show with a stunning triumph, becoming the first ever Egyptian female to win an Olympic gold medal.

Despite being a rank outsider, she stormed to the final with a series of impressive performances, losing only once in her group to Iran's Hamideh Abbasali.

She secured a 5-4 victory over Kazakhstan's Sofya Berultseva in a nail-biting semi-final, holding onto her narrow lead despite losing a Senshu advantage in the final minute.

In the final, she prevailed 2-0 against Azerbaijan's Irina Zaretska to make history, giving Egypt its first gold medal since Karam Gaber's wrestling triumph at the 2004 Athens Games.

"This is the least thing that I can give to Egypt ... this is the best moment of my entire life," Abdelaziz said.

Mohamed Metwally (Greco-Roman wrestling, men's -87kg)

Mohamed Metwally

Metwally reached the semi-final along with Kesho but was not as lucky.

He won by technical superiority (9-1) against 2021 European silver medalist Kiryl Maskevich of Ukraine in the round of 16 and then made a demonstration of power against Cuban Daniel Gregorich by pinning him to the mat in just one round in the quarter final.

He then lost 9-2 in the semi-final against Hungary's Viktor Lorincz before his medal hopes were crushed after an 8-1 loss by fall against German Denis Kudla.

Mohamed Elsayed (fencing, men's individual epee)

Mohamed El Sayed
Mohamed El Sayed

The 18-year-old belied his age with some mature performances, reaching the quarter-final after defeating Yannick Borel, who won the gold with France team at Rio 2016, 15-11 in the round of 32 before overcoming China's Minghao Lan 15-9 in the round of 16.

His impressive run came to an end in the last eight when he narrowly lost 15-13 to Ukraine's Ihor Reizlin.

Youssef Ramadan (swimming, men's 100m butterfly)

Youssef Ramadan

While all eyes were on Farida Osman, a two-time bronze medalist at the World Championship, the little-known Youssef Ramadan was the one who made a significant impact, reaching the semi-final of the 100m butterfly on his Olympic debut.

The 19-year-old became the first Egyptian male swimmer to advance to the semi-final at the Olympics since the 1948 London Games, when Ahmed Kandil and Taha Youssef El-Gamal featured in the final of the 200m breaststroke and the 100 freestyle respectively.

He finished eighth in the semis with a time of 52.27 seconds.

Mohab Ishak (diving, men's 3m springboard)

Mohab Ishak
Mohab Ishak

Diver Ishak finished 11th out of 12 finalists in the men's 3m springboard final, marking Egypt's best position since the 1948 Olympic Games.

Kamal Ali Hassan was the last Egyptian diver to reach the final 73 years ago in London, where he finished seventh.

Ishak narrowly missed out on fulfilling his own target of finishing among the top eight.

Nayel Nassar, Mouda Zeyada (equestrian, individual jumping)

Nayel Nassar
Nayel Nassar

The two riders reached the final of the men's individual jumping after finishing among the top 30.

Zeyada finished 19th while Nassar came 24th in the final.

Omar Assar (table tennis, men's singles)

Omar Assar
Omar Assar

Assar became the first Egyptian table tennis player to reach the Olympic quarter finals after defeating 2019 World Championship finalist Mattias Falck of Sweden and world no.27 Yuan Chih Chuang of Chinese Taipei.

However, he faced a stiff opponent in the last eight -- Chinese Ma Long, gold medalist at the 2016 Olympics and world champion in 2019. Assar lost 4-1 after putting up a brave fight and Ma Long went on to win gold.

"I think these Games were very important for me," Assar told Reuters.

"I know what my strength is, what my weaknesses are. I will try now to be more confident that I can reach many balls and complete my balls at the table."

Egypt team (handball, men's tournament)

handball team

The handball team's failure to win a historic Olympic medal was the most painful moment for Egyptian fans.

The supporters were glued to their seats throughout the tournament as Egypt dazzled, beating the likes of Sweden and Germany in a memorable run to the last four -- an unprecedented Olympic feat in any team sport for Egypt.

Even when Egypt lost 27-23 to France in the semis, they knew they still had a chance to cap their efforts with a bronze medal. But it was not meant to be as they lost 33-31 to Spain in the third-place contest.

"We reached the semi-final for the first time after beating some powerful teams," veteran star Ahmed El-Ahmar told beIN Sports after the game but could not complete the interview after appearing to fight back tears.

Several of El-Ahmar's teammates sobbed following the final whistle and were consoled by their Spain counterparts, reflecting the bitterness of the painful loss.

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