The journey of Egyptian taekwondo player Seif Eissa to the Olympic podium

Eissa won the bronze medal in the -80kg at the Tokyo Games after an impressive run in his first ever Olympics

Ghada Abdel-Kader , Thursday 29 Jul 2021
Seif Eissa
Bronze medalist Egypt s Seif Eissa poses on the podium after the taekwondo men s -80kg bouts during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Makuhari Messe Hall in Tokyo on July 26, 2021. AFP

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Egypt’s taekwondo fighter Seif Eissa achieved his dream of winning an Olympic medal. He won the bronze medal in the -80kg at the Tokyo Games after an impressive run in his first ever Olympics.

"I cannot describe my feeling now. Thank god for this achievement. I hope that all Egyptians are happy now. It was a dream not just for me. It was the dream of all 100 million Egyptians. We tried to win the gold today, but the competition was very tough," Eissa told beIN sports channel.

He was given a hero's welcome upon his arrival at Cairo Airport on Wednesday alongside fellow taekwondo fighter Hedaya Malak who also won the bronze in the -67kg event. Dozens of fans were waiting for them, chanting their names and waving national flags. An official delegation from the Minister of Youth, the Egyptian Olympic Committee, and the Taekwondo Federation were also waiting for them.

The medal is a reward of merit rather than a lucky shot, or in this case, kick. Eissa's success was quite predictable as he was tipped for glory since his very young age.

The 23-year-old athlete started practising at the age of seven at the Shooting Club. By the age of 15 he made it to the seniors' team, in 2013, and competed in major tournaments. He made his breakthrough in 2014, winning a bronze in the Youth Olympics at the age of 16.

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

In 2016 he failed in the qualifiers for Rio Olympics. He kept his dream alive, working hard and accumulating successes, including a silver medal in the 2016 Grand Prix at Baku, two golds in the 2019 Luxembourg Open and Australian Open, and a gold medal in the 2021 African Championships to book his flight to Tokyo.

“This is the place for the the 16 elite male and female athletes in different body weight categories. There is no place for weak opponents. Every breath, kick and error is calculated,” Amr Selim, president of the Egyptian Taekwondo Federation (ETF), told Ahram Online.

“Eissa's matches were very difficult but he managed to dominate his rival. The results were too close with a difference of one or two points. He only won one game with a large difference,” he added.

Eissa started his campaign by easily kicking out Jack Marton of Australia 11-1 then took over the 2019 World Champion Simone Alessio of Italy in a very tight contest 6-5. He lost against Maksim Khramtcov of Russia 13-1 who went on to win the gold. In the bronze medal contest he beat Richard Andre Ordemann of Norway 12-4.

“Eissa has persistence and the will to win. He had one dream, which is to become an Olympic champion. He started his preparation since the 2014 Youth Olympics. He worked too hard, participated in a lot of camps and tournaments and made a lot of sacrifices. His family was a big support for him too," Selim said.

Eissa now has joined a very exclusive club of Egyptian taekwondo fighters who tasted Olympic silverware following bronze medalist Tamer Salah, who won a maiden bronze medal in Athens 2004, and two-time bronze medalist Hedaya Malak in 2016 and 2020.

At 23, Eissa has still plenty to dream off and in Paris 2024 he can go a step up on the podium.  

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