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Egypt’s Olympians Return Home Having Made History

August 8, 2021
Medalist line-up, left to right: Seif Eissa, Mohammed Ibrahim El-Sayed, Hedaya Malak, Giana Farouk, Ahmed Elgendy, Feryal Abdelaziz
Medalist line-up, left to right: Seif Eissa, Mohammed Ibrahim El-Sayed, Hedaya Malak, Giana Farouk, Ahmed Elgendy, Feryal Abdelaziz

As the final bells and whistles ring out for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games, the long awaited games draw to an end. From high dives to handball, athletes have burned the midnight oil working towards their personal glories – with heart and heat and exemplar sportsmanship. After a grueling year of bitter COVID-19 delays and public quarantine, Egypt welcomes back some of its most iconic medalists.

Starting in late July and ending in ceremony tonight, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have witnessed some of Egypt’s finest talents reach their full potential. Others, equally promising, leave fans eager and impatient to hear of their future successes. With several note-worthy efforts, Egypt is now home to six 2020 Olympic medalists – among them, those who have carved their names well into its athletic history.

Egypt saw unforgettable performances in martial arts, particularly historic karate moments made by Feryal Abdelaziz, aged 22, and her equally impressive karateka Giana Farouk, aged 26.

Against Azerbaijan’s Irina Zaretska in a high-strung, high-stakes match, Abdelaziz was able to secure Egypt’s first ever gold medal by a woman at the Nippon Budokan arena in the center of Tokyo. She claimed the lead with only half a minute on the clock, and the final buzzer sealed her victory on the afternoon of August 7. With similarly stunning execution, Farouk was the first to make history only a day prior, her bronze medal constituting Egypt’s first-ever in karate. In a thrilling display of skill against Yin Xiaoyan of China, Farouk came third in women’s kumite -61 kg.

Taekwondo provided an equally promising opportunity for Egyptian Olympians, with both Hedaya Malak (aged 28) and Seif Eissa (aged 23) claiming bronze medals in their respective weight-gender categories. This is not an isolated victory, however, with Malak being the first Arab woman to secure two consecutive medals between her bronze in Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. In an interview with Ahram Online, Malak expresses: “[…] it is the result of five years of hard work since the end of the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro 2016. [I] cannot express my feelings of happiness and joy to make my homeland and the Egyptian people happy and proud.”

Sharing similar sentiments, Eissa told beIN Sports Live that he “cannot describe” his feelings; “[i]t was a dream not just for me,” he continues, “it was the dream of all 100-million Egyptians.” Both Malak and Eissa were welcomed home by masses upon arrival at Cairo International Airport, all echoing their names and commemorating their victories with the Egyptian flag in hand.

Jack of all trades, and master pentathlete without fail, Ahmed Elgendy brought home the silver medal in the men’s modern pentathlon. This is Arfica’s first-ever medal in the multivariate sport, and remains one of Egypt’s biggest wins of the Tokyo 2020 Games. With previous medals at the 2021 World Championships and the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics, Elgendy’s athleticism and heart are certainly worth veneration.

Meanwhile, two-time U23 World Champion and 2019 African Games gold medalist, Mohamed Ibrahim Elsayed – or ‘Kesho’ colloquially – won Egypt’s eighth medal in Greco-Roman Wrestling at the Tokyo 2020 Games. Defeating Korea’s seasoned wrestler Hasu Ryu, El-Sayed lost the semi-final with a tight margin of 6-7 to Parviz Nasibov of Ukraine. In an interview with Sky News, the 23 year old notes that “[t]he qualifying journey was tough” – but even so, his key performance is a testament to these long-standing efforts.

That said, Egypt’s pride is reflected in their medalists and their non-medalists alike, with Egyptian Olympians participating in everything from table-tennis to fencing, their wide range of skills saturating the 2020 Games. Such names include Alaa Abu al-Qasim, Mohamed Hamza, and Mohamed El-Sayed for their performances in fencing and sword fencing respectively. A memorable performance also comes courtesy Omar Assar, who was lionized as one of the best table-tennis players in modern Egyptian history.

In similar vein, Egypt’s national handball team made its way to the semifinals, under the close guidance of Coach Roberto García Parrondo and the watchful eye of Egyptian fans, nestled back home. It is the first African team to do so.

These victories constitute the largest in number since Egypt’s participation in the 1928 Olympic games, hosted in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Even so, piping-hot ambition has Egypt looking forward to Paris 2024, to further solidify its athletes as a force to be reckoned with.

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