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Ghana, Cameroon loom on Super Falcons’ route to Paris 2024

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The road to next year’s Women’s Olympic Football Tournament for nine-time African champions Nigeria is haunted by Ghana and Cameroon, following the draw conducted in Cairo on Tuesday afternoon.  

After a probable meeting with Ethiopia in the second round of the campaign in October this year, the Falcons will have to confront the winner of the ties Uganda/Rwanda and Cameroon.

Once they cross the Cameroonian hurdle, the Nigerian girls will be up against the winner of the Guinea Bissau/Benin Republic against Guinea/Ghana.

Cameroon stopped Nigeria from qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics, when they edged a two-leg encounter on penalties in Yaounde.

Equatorial Guinea stopped the Super Falcons in the race to Rio 2016 Olympics while Cote d’Ivoire proved the stumbling block to the last Games held in Tokyo.

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However, the Super Falcons have severally stopped the Indomitable Lionesses from reaching the FIFA World Cup, including beating them in the Women AFCON quarter-finals in Morocco last year to deny the Lionesses a spot in this year’s finals in Australia and New Zealand.

The Falcons equally defeated Cameroon right in front of their home fans in the Final of the 2016 Women Africa Cup of Nations.

The Falcons stopped Ghana from reaching the Women AFCON in Morocco last year, and have also severally been the pain in the neck of Ghana’s Black Maidens as far as FIFA World Cup berths are concerned.  

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Inspired by Salah, Egypt’s Elgendy eyes gold in Paris

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Modern Pentathlon - Men's Laser-Run - Tokyo Stadium - Tokyo, Japan - August 7, 2021. Ahmed Elgendy of Egypt celebrates after winning silver REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

When Ahmed Elgendy met Mohamed Salah in January, he was given a pep talk and posed for a picture with the Egyptian soccer star while wearing the modern pentathlon silver medal that he earned at the Tokyo Olympics.

Yet the 24-year-old dreams of taking another photo with Salah after the upcoming Paris Olympics, but this time he hopes to don a gold medal as he seeks to etch his name deeper into Egypt’s sporting history.

“Salah is a role model for all of us. Having a conversation with him, not just taking a photo, is a very big thing,” Elgendy told Reuters. “We talked about the Olympics and preparations; it was a very good meeting.”

Elgendy was a relative unknown when he made history in Tokyo, becoming the first African to win an Olympic modern pentathlon medal.

A late rally in the men’s individual event saw him finish just behind gold medallist Joe Choong of Britain.

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Since then, he has been beset by injuries, including a shoulder injury that forced him out of the semi-finals of the Pentathlon World Championships last month.

However, after an intensive rehabilitation program, he has been declared fit and hopes deliver a gold medal in Paris.

“Things are different now compared to Tokyo; I’m more experienced and confident. Over the past three years, I’ve participated in only seven championships due to my shoulder injuries, yet I won medals in five of them,” Elgendy said.

“My primary target is to win gold, but I will also be happy if I win a silver or bronze as it will mark a second successive Olympic medal.”

Modern pentathlon athletes will face an added challenge in Paris with a riding contest in both the semi-finals and the final. In Tokyo, this event was part of a single-round format.

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In the equestrian competition, riders are allocated random horses just 20 minutes before the start. The horse-riding contest will be scrapped altogether from the 2028 Los Angeles Games, making way for obstacle racing.

“There is a bigger risk now with regards to horse riding; it’s a bigger challenge. We hope things will go smoothly,” Elgendy added.

Elgendy, currently ranked fourth in the world, is aware he is under pressure as Egypt’s primary hope of glory in Paris. He has also been selected as Egypt’s flag-bearer during the opening ceremony.

“I know that I’m under the spotlight now, unlike in Tokyo. But I’m taking positives from that and treating it as extra motivation,” he said.

-Reuters

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Cash, luxury cars and land grants, Paris Games a gold mine for Arab medallists

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Wrestling - WWE Crown Jewel 2021 - Mohammed Abdu Arena, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - October 21, 2021 Olympic silver medalist Tareg Hamedi joins Mansoor during his fight against Mustafa Ali REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri/File Photo

Tareg Hamedi went from being a hard-working student athlete to a national hero and millionaire after landing Saudi Arabia’s second ever Olympic silver medal in the karate competition in Tokyo three years ago.

Olympic medals remain a rarity for athletes from the Arab world but those who do manage to get onto the podium can expect lavish rewards, from luxury cars to land grants as well as a healthy boost to their bank balances.

Even as the sporting world debates the decision by World Athletics to award $50,000 to track and field gold medallists at the Paris Olympics, athletes from the region can be sure of much bigger paydays if they can snare a title in France.

In Tokyo, Hamedi missed out on claiming his country’s first gold medal in controversial circumstances when he knocked out his opponent with an illegal high kick in the final and was disqualified.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Hamedi he was a gold medallist in his country’s eyes and the fighter was rewarded with the full 5 million riyal ($1.33 million) prize promised to Olympic title winners.

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Offering huge financial incentives to medal winners is not unknown elsewhere – Hong Kong fencer Cheung Ka Long banked HK$5 million ($640,311) for his Tokyo gold – but bestowing honours on champions has a long history in the Arab world.

Olympic medallists can expect streets, schools and bridges to be named after them and it is not just oil-rich Gulf nations that offer lavish gifts and monetary rewards.

In Algeria, it is customary for the country’s president to honour Olympic champions with gifts from ranging from luxury cars to apartments.

The winner of a gold medal in Morocco receives two million dirhams ($200,000) while Egypt’s National Olympic Committee, in agreement with sponsors, has raised the value of a gold medal to five million Egyptian pounds ($105,218) for Paris.

The entire Iraqi national football team that qualified for Paris Olympics recently received plots of land and financial bonuses from the prime minister.

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Qatar has long used financial incentives to attract athletes from other countries to compete for the gas-rich state and the rewards for medal success are thought to be generous, even if they are not publicly disclosed.

Egypt-born weightlifter Fares Ibrahim Hassouna switched allegiance to win Qatar’s first Olympic gold medal in Tokyo in 2021 in a move that did not go down well with the Egyptian Weightlifting Federation.

“They splash money on him just as football clubs do on players,” federation chief Mahmoud Mahgoub said at the time.

-Reuters

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Respite as CAS postpones judgement on WADA – Nigeria case

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BREAKING! WADA Sends Nigeria, Venezuela Anti-doping Agency Cases To CAS -

Judgement may have been postponed in the case before the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) involving the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and Nigeria.

A decision was expected on Friday. Information gathered from various sources indicated that the decision may have been deferred till after the Paris 2024 Games.

 WADA had claimed that Nigeria, among some other countries, did not comply with WADA Code.

The alleged non-compliance in the Nigeria case is due to the Nigeria Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) not addressing several critical requirements to its anti-doping program following an audit carried out by WADA in late 2022.

The General Secretary of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), Tunde Popoola told the Sports Village Square that he was not entertaining any fear of Nigeria losing the case.

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“It will be a shocker, if they decide to suspend us”, said Popoola. He added that he had not heard  anything about the case.

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