By 30 August Egypt had collected six medals in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics - four silver and two bronze - and all in powerlifting.
Fatma Omar won the silver medal in the women’s -67kg powerlifting event having lifted 120kg, second behind China’s Yujiao Tan (133kg). This makes it the sixth consecutive Paralympic medal for Omar.
Omar won four gold medals from 2000 to 2012 in Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London respectively, and a silver medal in Rio 2016. She has a career total of 15 medals at World Championships and is the first female Egyptian para-athlete who is a four-time gold medalist at the Paralympics. With her latest win, Omar is a Paralympic record holder with six medals in total.
The powerlifter made her debut at the IPC Powerlifting World Championships 1998 in Dubai and subsequently won the gold medal in the 44kg category. Omar also holds the record for the largest number of gold medals won along with Fu Taoying.
Omar was chosen to be the flag bearer at the opening ceremony in Tokyo followed by Egypt’s 49 athletes who also entered swimming, table tennis, badminton and athletics. The Paralympics, being held from 24 August – 5 September, is for athletes with physical, vision and/or intellectual impairments. Originally scheduled to take place in 2020, both the Olympics and Paralympics were postponed to 2021 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Egypt’s other medal-winning powerlifters were Mahmoud Attia (men’s silver), Mohamed Elefat (men’s bronze), Rehab Ahmed (women’s silver), Sherif Osman (men’s silver) and Hani Abdel-Hadi (men’s bronze).
Egyptian powerlifting legend Osman won a silver after losing to 22-year-old Chinese star Qi Yongkai in the -59kg weight category. Although Osman has always had a taste for victory, having won Paralympic gold at every game since his debut at Beijing 2008, injury this time made it difficult to keep up his golden streak. Both competitors lifted 187kg, but Qi took top honours due to a lower body weight.
Five years ago in Rio, Osman set a new world record of 211kg in the category. It was surprising to see him on the second step of the podium in Tokyo, shedding tears still in disbelief. “I really appreciate this silver medal because I suffered a muscle rupture earlier this year and only had permission from the doctor to restart training a month before travelling to Japan,” Osman said.
“It is very difficult and a big challenge to compete weeks before you are recovering from an injury, when you were supposed to be training hard. I came, I competed, I fought hard. That is why this medal is so special and gives me strength to try again to win gold at Paris 2024.”
Osman stated several times that his big dream was winning six gold medals at the Paralympic Games. He admitted: “I was crying on the podium because I really wanted to win that gold.”
However, the 38-year-old remains optimistic about accomplishing his lifelong dream. “I never look down but always try to improve and go further.
“My dream of winning six Paralympic gold medals remains alive. I am halfway through; this silver means now I will have to continue competing until Brisbane 2032. So be it.”
Ahmed won a silver medal in powerlifting and was close to winning the gold after lifting 120 kilogrammes in the 50-kilogramme weight category.
This was not the first Paralympic medal in Ahmed’s career. Her first Paralympic medal was in Rio in the women’s 50-kilogramme weight category.
Abdel-Hadi, 41, won a bronze medal in powerlifting in the 88-kilogramme weight category. After his debut in 2007, Abdel-Hadi won a gold medal in London in the 90-kilogramme weight category.
Meantime, Egyptian table tennis player Ibrahim Hamadtou captured the world’s imagination for his inspiring grit and determination to play the game with no arms, showcasing the diversity of sports and the importance of inclusion for people with disabilities.
Despite losing against South Korea’s Park Hong-kyu in the Class 6 qualifiers, the Egyptian went viral and was featured on several global platforms, including Fox News, the Daily Mail and Business Insider.
World No 1 ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic posted a video of Hamadtou playing on his Instagram story, writing: “Amazing… I am in awe of this @ibrahim hamadto.”
Having lost both his arms at the age of 10, Hamadtou, 48, stunned viewers by controlling the bat with his mouth and serving with his feet.
Hamadtou’s journey began in 2014 when he was up for the Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Sports Innovation Award in Dubai and was awarded the Best Arab Athlete of the year, pushing him to later win the silver medal in the 2015 African Championships.
The ultimate breakthrough came in 2016, when Hamadtou reached Rio for his first Paralympics after qualifying with a second in the 2016 African Championships. He finished 11th in the Class 6 singles and ninth in the team event.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 2 September, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly