YOG weightlifter Sara Ahmed blazes a trail for Egyptian athletes
History was made at Riocentro Pavilion 2 on Day 5 of the Olympic Games Rio 2016 when Sara Ahmed became the first female Egyptian athlete to win an Olympic medal in any sport.
More than a century after Egypt first competed in the Olympic Games, the teenage Ahmed wrote her name into the country’s record books when she won an historic bronze medal in the women’s 69kg weightlifting event.
The 18-year-old followed up a 112kg lift in the snatch with 143kg in the clean and jerk for a total of 255kg, a personal best by 10kg. That mighty effort was enough to seal a third-place finish behind China’s Yanmei Xiang and Zhazira Zhapparkul, from Kazakhstan.
The bronze medal is the latest in a growing list of triumphs for Ahmed who took up the sport in 2010, following in the footsteps of her brother Mohamed Samir, and has an impressive tally of medals, including victories at the African Games and Junior World Championships. Her breakthrough year came in 2014 when she topped the podium in the 63kg class at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Nanjing 2014, the same year that she competed at senior level for the first time, finishing 12th in the World Championships.
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Two years on from her success in Nanjing, Ahmed – who is just 1.55m tall – still has fond memories of the YOG. “The Youth Olympic Games win gave me good feelings that I can’t explain,” she admitted.
No doubt those emotions returned after Ahmed produced the performance of her life in Rio, although once again she struggled to find the words to describe the moment!
“It is a very great honour and I can’t express my thoughts,” revealed Ahmed, who became only the second African woman to win an Olympic weightlifting medal.
Just as important as all the medals is Ahmed’s position as a role model for aspiring female athletes in her home country. She competes wearing a sports hijab and a full-length unitard after a rule change by the International Weightlifting Federation in 2011. So determined was she to perform at her peak in Rio that she chose to miss her final high school exams in June to prioritise her preparations.
A few hours after Ahmed had claimed her country’s first medal of the Games, and its first weightlifting podium finish in 68 years, Egypt had cause to celebrate again as her compatriot Mohamed Mahmoud won bronze in the men’s 77kg event.Another moment to savour on an unforgettable night for weightlifting and one female athlete in particular.