The recently concluded 2021 modern pentathlon Youth World Championships revealed that Egypt’s young athletes are ready to jump to the senior ranks.
The Under-19 and U-17 one-week event was held at the Arab Academy for Science Technology & Maritime Transport in Alexandria, Egypt. It was the third time Egypt hosted three World Pentathlon Championships, with the seniors taking place in June in Cairo and two championships in Alexandria, the U-21 in July and the U-19 & U-17 this month.
After several tough and often thrilling days of individual, team relay and mixed relays events, the new generation made a huge impression, giving the sport’s officials a good reason to keep a close eye on nurturing their talents as they continue to progress.
The final medals table saw Belarus top the standings with an overall six medals - three gold, two silver and one bronze. Hosts Egypt followed in second place with seven medals: three gold, one silver and three bronze, ahead of Russia who levelled the medal count with Egypt with seven medals, but only two gold medals, one less than the Egyptians’ three gold. The Russians also collected three silver and two bronze. Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, France and Italy followed from fourth to eighth respectively.
Former modern pentathlon Olympian Aya Medani, now a member of the Egyptian parliament, said: “First of all I’m just happy that we had the competition in the Arab Academy. It’s my university. I was a student in the Arab Academy and I’m a teaching assistant as well, in the Cairo branch. I was glad that I was the first to make the collaboration between the Egyptian federation, the UIPM (Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne) and the academy. It was a full five years and now I’m happy to see it on the field. It’s perfect. The athletes, the coaches and even the executive board are very happy with the field. Having everything in the same place, especially for youth, they are happy. They just care that they are together in one place. I was lucky that I have won this competition before — three gold and two silvers. So, as chair of the Athletes’ Commission, I’m glad to see the new generation and, hopefully, I can see them in the future at senior and Olympic level,” said Medani who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee.
Egypt’s Mazen Shaban and Moutaz Mohamed won the first gold medal of the championships, taking the U-19 men’s relay on the opening day. They came out on top of a hugely competitive field with 17 nations represented. The duo was pushed all the way by Uladzislau Melkaziorau and Uladzislau Zhartun of Belarus and Kirill Manuilo and Vladimir Zeleputin of Russia who took silver and bronze respectively.
“I am very happy to have the gold right now. My teammate had a great finish. We were asked to get the gold medal in the relay and we got it,” said gold medalist Shaban, while team-mate Mohamed said: “I feel very good because I won today. And I promise that I will get the individual gold. The key was teamwork. The motivation was between us. It is a good thing that we won in our country. All of our country has supported us. We got the gold medal for them.”
On the second day of competition, the Egyptian women showed they were equal to their male counterparts when they claimed Egypt’s second gold medal by winning first place, as Malak Ismail and Amira Kandil shared the U-19 women’s relay title on home soil. From the beginning of the competition, it was clear that the ladies would not settle for any colour less than gold. Ismail crossed the finish line and jumped right into Kandil’s arms to celebrate with Russia’s impressive duo Yana Soloveva and Viktoria Sazonova left to take silver by a narrow margin. Hungary got onto the podium for the first time in these action-packed championships as Dorina Dobronyl and Reka Marschall took bronze.
Gold medalist Ismail revealed that she felt proud of what she did that day. “Competing in the last running lap was very hard for me. My shooting was not really good. I ran after the Russian team and tried to save my strength to make a great finish and we did it. Our great support is here. Our parents, teammates and friends are here. So, it’s a good thing to win this gold medal in our home,” said Ismail.
“It feels so good. Today this competition was amazing. And I have an amazing teammate in Malak Ismail. It was so hard today but it’s a very good finish,” Kandil added.
Later, the 18-year-old Kandil confirmed her status as one to watch in the Olympic Games in Paris in three years as she brought home another gold, this time in the U-19 individual women’s final. Kandil, who recently participated in her first Olympics, in Tokyo, came ahead of opponents
Yana Soloveva of Russia and Belarus’ Anastasiya Malashenoka, who took individual bronze.
The new U-19 women’s world champion Kandil was very excited as she added her second gold medal, this time in the individual event. “So happy today because I’m so proud of this result. I’m happy because this is a dream come true — world champion. I want to say thanks to all the people who have supported me in this championship and a big thank you to my coach and family. So proud because I’m so young. It’s a dream to go to the Olympics but now I want to go to Paris 2024,” she told the media.
In the U-17 men’s relay, Russia’s Egor Zorkin and Maksim Malyshev took top spot, claiming the first Russian gold of the men’s relay. Lithuania garnered a second medal as Nojus Chmieliauskas and Lukas Gaudiesius took silver with home players Osama Zaki and Mohamed Mohamed taking bronze.
In Alexandria, no one was prouder of his athletes than President of the Egyptian Modern Pentathlon Federation Sherif Al-Erian who reflected on their performance and achievements. “We feel very happy for the Egyptian Modern Pentathlon Federation over how the competition went. Everything has gone perfectly. The atmosphere was so great. The youths were full of energy and happy. The venue was great and so was the weather of Alexandria. Many nations made it to the podium. Our Egyptian team did well and feel so proud.”
Egyptian athletes excelled in the swimming and fencing disciplines
The seven days of action in Alexandria ended with Russia and Hungary claiming the final two gold medals in the U-19 and U-17 and the future of the sport looking brighter than ever.
Russia’s Kirill Manuilo made good on a pre-championships promise as he claimed individual gold in the U-19 men’s final, narrowly seeing off the spirited challenges of Cedric Chatellier of France and home favourite Moutaz Mohamed, who claimed one last medal for Egypt. It was the Egyptian’s third medal after a gold and bronze in relay competition.
UIPM Treasurer John Helmick admitted that the tournaments were exceptional. “This has been an excellent competition since the beginning and I want to congratulate the academy; it is absolutely amazing what has been done here. Thank you again for the outstanding venue, the excellent competition and most of all the excellent hospitality.”
A total of 130 competitors from across 24 countries took part in the first global gathering of the best modern pentathlon athletes at the Under-19 and Under-17 since 2019.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 23 September, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly