Egypt’s Salma Abdelmaksoud and Ahmed Elgendy scored a remarkable golden double at the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018, winning the women’s and men’s individual modern pentathlon events. Elgendy then claimed his second gold of the YOG in the mixed international team relay with China’s Gu Yewen, an event in which Abdelmaksoud linked up with Argentina’s Franco Serrano to win the silver.
The modern pentathlon world has been warned: Egypt are a force to be reckoned with. Elgendy and Abdelmaksoud were in a class of their own in the individual events and also excelled in the team competition, respectively occupying the top two spots on the podium.
“I’m so happy to win this title because it’s the first really big achievement of my life,” said Abdelmaksoud. “When I crossed the finish line I felt as if I’d fulfilled my dream. I started to cry because I was thinking about all the hard work I’d put in, all the problems I’d had in training, and all the effort and support my parents have given me.”
Starting the laser run in second place, 11 seconds behind Italy’s Alice Rinaudo, Abdelmaksoud moved into the lead at the first shoot and then broke away to win by a distance. Rinaudo dropped out of the medals altogether when France’s Emma Riff and Chinese Taipei’s Chen Yu-Hsuan went past her to win silver and bronze respectively.
When I crossed the finish line I felt as if I’d fulfilled my dream. I started to cry because I was thinking about all the hard work I’d put in, all the problems I’d had in training, and all the effort and support my parents have given meAhmed Elgendy EGY
As for Elgendy, his triumphant Buenos Aires 2018 campaign capped a remarkable year in which he also won the world youth and junior titles in April and August. Unlike Abdelmaksoud, he had already built up a big lead before the laser run and maintained it to cruise to victory. Russia’s Egor Gromadskii finished second overall and France’s Ugo Fleurot third.
“It’s amazing to win all these things in the space of just a few months,” said the 18-year-old Elgendy. “I want to kick on now and compete at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and win a medal there. I’ve taken part in some senior competitions already and got some good results. I’m ready for it.”
Not content with their individual golds, Elgendy and Abdelmaksoud were back on the podium in the mixed international team relay, making it clear in the process that Egypt is intent on becoming one of the leading forces in modern pentathlon.
“The real secret to our country’s success is the team,” said Elgendy after partnering with China’s Gu to win his second gold of Buenos Aires 2018. “We all train very hard and we have some excellent facilities in Egypt. The federation gives us great support.”
Sharif Ahmed Fouad, the president of the Egyptian Modern Pentathlon Federation and the Secretary General of the country’s National Olympic Committee, explained the north African nation’s recent rise to prominence: “We have worked very hard over these last five years. We came close at the last YOG in Nanjing in 2014, finishing fourth and seventh, and now we have three golds and a silver, which is a dream come true.
“It’s taken time but we have some superb facilities now. We have worked hard to break new ground in our sport and we haven’t followed traditional training methods like the rest. We’ve created our own programmes, which are totally different to those of other countries, and we’re now reaping the benefits.”
Though it still lacks the widespread popularity enjoyed by other sports in Egypt such as football, modern pentathlon has already made its mark on the country and its athletes have a bright future ahead of them. “We have more than 3,000 modern pentathletes in Egypt now,” explained Fouad. “Though there are only 30 people in our national team, we have many more who are involved in the sport. It might not be a big sport in Egypt yet, but I hope these three gold medals will encourage a lot more people to come and join us.”