Playing with protocols – Sports – Al-Ahram Weekly

The main challenge for world sport in 2021, like the previous year, was to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and its more recent Delta and Omicron variants. Some countries decided to face reality and get back to business, seeing it as the “new normal”, while others had reservations and waited and watched from afar.

Egypt has taken the first path, embarking on a daring adventure by hosting the World Handball Championships in January. The three-week event was the first world championship to be held in Cairo after the outbreak of Covid-19 a year earlier and at a time when most countries were still observing strict closures and sporting activities were suspended.

At the championships, Egypt hosted 32 teams, and the tournament was, as many observers have said, a huge success, taking place under strict health protocols due to Covid-19 when the bubble concept came on. been applied for the first time.

The handball world championships were followed by the organization of other world championships in fencing, gymnastics, shooting and three modern pentathlon tournaments. They were all held in the bubble and, therefore, without incident.

Egypt’s experience in hosting international events as well as in organizing national competitions received positive feedback around the world, especially in the first quarter of the year. The Egyptian initiative had, in fact, encouraged other countries to resume their sporting activities and to host major events. Egypt had taken the lead and had become the example to follow.

However, and even though Egypt began providing coronavirus vaccines to its people in March, the pandemic has forced most major events to reshape, including the Tokyo Olympics which were delayed by one. year due to Covid-19 issues. Getting vaccinated has become a must for athletes, coaches, technical and training staff, volunteers and organizers. Each participant had to take a PCR test every three days. A negative case would be isolated. The system continued at the end of the year.

For the first half of the year, most events, including the Olympics, were held behind closed doors; fans were not allowed to enter. However, in the summer, from the UEFA European Championship onwards, sold-out stadiums returned to several countries, but only for those fully vaccinated. Proof in the form of a card or mobile app, fan ID or media accreditation card was required before claiming a ticket to attend a sporting facility or event. .

The most impressive achievement of the year in Egypt was winning six medals at the Tokyo Olympics, including a gold one, the most amassed by Egypt at any Olympic Games.

Egypt’s previous record was five medals won at the 2004 Athens Games: one gold, one silver and three bronze.

Egypt won three bronze medals at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

In Tokyo, the Egyptians competed in the 17-day event with a record-breaking contingent of 134 athletes who competed in 23 sports. After all, the Pharaohs finished 54th out of 86 in the table after winning one gold, one silver and four bronze in taekwondo, wrestling, karate and modern pentathlon.

Egypt started slowly in Tokyo, winning just two bronze medals in week one, both in taekwondo, won by Seif Eissa and Hedaya Malak.

In the second week, there was no sign of more medals to come. Hopes seemed dashed until Mohamed Ibrahim, or Kisho, won bronze in Greco-Roman wrestling, followed by another bronze from Gianna Farouk in karate, who had joined the Olympics for the first time.

Egypt left the best for last when two remaining medals came with only one day remaining for the Games. Ahmed Al-Gendi won silver in the modern pentathlon and Feryal Ashraf won the ultimate gold in karate. It was the first Egyptian gold medal since wrestler Karam Gaber won in Athens in 2004. Prior to that, Egypt’s last Olympic gold medal dates back to 1948 in weightlifting.

Egypt could have won more medals in Tokyo as many athletes approached the podium, especially the men’s handball team which made history by qualifying for the semi-finals the first time that the he team reached such heights. But Egypt lost to France, then lost bronze to Spain 27-23 for a fourth place.

Greco-Roman wrestler Mohamed Mustafa came fifth. The men’s saber fencing team and Omar Assar in table tennis did not win any medals but nevertheless shone.

2012 silver medalist Alaa Abul-Kassem finished sixth in the men’s individual foil event, while teammates Mohamed Hamza and Mohamed Al-Sayed placed seventh and eighth in saber. Two athletes and two teams finished eighth in their sport: Mustafa Amr in the shot put, Abdel-Rahman Wael in taekwondo, the men’s foil team and the football team.

In Egypt’s first participation in the discipline of gymnastic trampoline, Malak Hamza secured ninth place while teammate Asser Seif came in 10th. Diver Mohamed Mohaymen broke an Egyptian record by finishing 11th on the three-meter springboard. Without being in the top 12, other Egyptian athletes improved their personal bests.

Egyptian athletes also had their moments at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, winning seven Olympic medals: five silver and two bronze. The Egyptians finished in 64th place in the medal standings.

At the Paralympic Games, held from August 25 to September 6, Egypt made its 13th appearance. The delegation included 49 athletes who competed in eight sports but won medals only in powerlifting and taekwondo, six in powerlifting and one in taekwondo.

Despite not winning a medal, table tennis player Ibrahim Hamadtou has proven that nothing is impossible. Holding the handle of the paddle in his mouth, Hamadtou, who lost both arms in a train crash at the age of 10, was talked about at the Games and stole the hearts of millions of people around the world, including world No. 1 tennis player Novak. Djokovic who posted a video of Hamadtou performing on his Instagram story. “Unbelievable… I am in awe of this @ibrahim hamadto.”

Besides the Olympics, Egypt has won medals in all three colors in modern pentathlon, fencing, gymnastics, weightlifting, squash, tennis, karate, taekwondo, horse riding, wrestling. and swimming. Egyptian athletes improved by setting new personal and continental bests.

Egypt has remained a squash superpower, enjoying near complete domination of the world rankings. At the end of the year, seven of the world’s top 10 male players were Egyptians, led by world No.1 Ali Farag. It was not that different in the women with six Egyptians in the top 10, led by Nour Al-Sherbini. Few nations have enjoyed such superiority in a sport.

Meanwhile, weightlifting returned to Egypt at the end of the year after a two-year drug ban.

Mayar Sherif, 25, finished the year in 64th place in the WTA rankings, the highest ever for an Egyptian woman.

Prodigy Hana Gouda won a gold and a silver medal at the World Junior Table Tennis Championships for the first time in Egypt’s history in the sport. Ahly’s player won gold in doubles while silver was collected in singles. The 14-year-old was the youngest Egyptian athlete to join the Olympic delegation at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

In football, Egypt hosted the first African Women’s Champions League won by the Sundowns of South Africa.

Powerful Egyptian club Ahly took third place in the FIFA Club World Cup after winning the African Champions League.

The national team qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations in January and the final matchup in the African qualifiers for next year’s World Cup.

But the year of football ended on a sour note after Egypt, which reached the semi-final of the first FIFA Arab Cup, lost 1-0 to Tunisia as a result. an own goal from star midfielder Amr Solaiya. Egypt had to settle for fourth place, collecting $ 1.5 million in prize money.

* A print version of this article appears in the December 23, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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