2021 Yearender: Egypt enjoys best Olympics in over 7 decades

Ahram Online , Friday 31 Dec 2021

Before the Tokyo Games got underway in the summer, Egyptian Olympic officials predicted a return of up to five medals but the country's athletes went a step further to mark a memorable Olympics for Egypt.

Feryal Abdelaziz
Egypt s Feryal Abdelaziz poses with her gold medal in the women s kumite 61kg in the karate competition at a ceremony during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on August 7, 2021. AFP

Egypt won six medals for its biggest ever tally despite a ban given to its weightlifters over doping offences, 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 seven decades.

Taekwondo and karate athletes had the lion's share with two medals each, with Feryal Abdelaziz stealing the show and making history after becoming the first ever Egyptian female to win an Olympic gold medal.

The karate athlete, who was a rank outsider, put the icing on the cake on the penultimate day of the Olympics when she prevailed 2-0 against Azerbaijan's Irina Zaretska in the final of the women's kumite +61kg to give Egypt its first gold medal since Karam Gaber's wrestling triumph at the 2004 Athens Games.

When she flew home, she was given a hero's reception in her hometown -- a working class neighborhood in Cairo

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

Fellow karate athlete Giana Farouk, who took part in the women's kumite 61kg contest, was one of Egypt's pre-Games gold medal favourites and she did not disappoint despite coming up short.

She walked away with the bronze medal 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

Two taekwondo athletes also delivered bronze medals, with Hedaya Malak replicating her 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games achievement and little-known Seif Eissa surprising observers.

After a bitter 13-12 loss to Britain's Lauren Williams in the quarter-final of the women's -67kg category, Malak kept alive her bronze medal hopes 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."

Eissa followed suit shortly in the men's -80kg category.

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.

A fourth Egyptian bronze in Tokyo was won by Greco-Roman wrestler Mohamed 'Kesho' El-Sayed on his Olympic debut despite the heartache of throwing away what looked a likely win in the men's men's -67kg semi-final against Ukraine's Parviz Nasibov.

Kesho enjoyed a 6-4 lead with less than 30 seconds remaining but opted to merely defend with the clock ticking towards the end, allowing Nasibov to overturn the deficit and win 7-6.

Despite the agony 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.

Biggest surprise

The biggest Egyptian surprise in Tokyo was sprung by Ahmed Elgendy, who gave Egypt and Africa their first ever medal in modern pentathlon after winning silver.

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 only 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 in 2021.

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