Unsung Egyptian makes supporters’ journey worthwhile

Salma Abdelmaksoud’s (Egypt) come-from-behind victory in the women’s modern pentathlon on Saturday may have been a shock, but it certainly did not disappoint her family and friend who had travelled 12,000km to support her in Buenos Aires.

Picture by IOC/OIS

In sixth position after the fencing event, Abdelmaksoud (EGY) put up a stellar performance in the laser-run, crossing the finish line in tears of joy, as about two dozen of her family and friends from home cheered from the stands.

“I’m so happy I won the gold because it’s the first achievement in my whole life,” the 18-year-old said. “When I crossed the finish line I just thought that I achieved my dream. I took in my hands the finish line tape and I wanted to carry it home with me.  Then I started to cry because I remembered all my efforts and hardships to train, the efforts and the support from my mother and my father - so many tears. I still can’t believe what I’ve done.”

The modern pentathlon at the Buenos Aires 2018 YOG is a four-discipline version and combines fencing, swimming, running and shooting. After committing only six mistakes in 26 attempts at hitting the target, Abdelmaksoud’s run was superb, as Emma Riff (FRA) of France and Michelle Gulyas (HUN) could not catch up with her and had to settle for silver and bronze respectively. 

“I’m really proud of her,” said Alida Frances van der Merwe (RSA), who finished seventh. “I know her as a friend as well, we practised together in a training camp in Egypt and she deserves every part of that gold medal.”

Event favourite Alice Rinaudo (ITA) entered the last phase in first place, but missed the target too many times in the laser-run, costing her a podium finish. She ended up fifth. 

Emma Riff (FRA), left, in action against Michelle Gulyas (HUN) during the individual fencing bonus round (IOC/OIS)

“Abdelmaksoud had never won a thing before today,” she said. “When I won the youth world championships she came in fourth, and that was her best result up until today. But that’s part of our sport, on one particular day you happen to shine, especially at the Olympics like her today. She gave it all, she deserved the gold because she did very well at shooting.” 

Abdelmaksoud put it down to some sustained effort away from the limelight.

Salma Abdelmaksoud (EGY) relied on her stellar shooting accuracy in the laser-run to help propel her to victory (IOC/OIS)

“I worked so hard in training throughout the past year to get this medal,” she said. “I trained all the time I could, every day after school I went to practise a lot. After today I want to practise even more to get more prepared for the next Olympics. I’ve been almost perfect today at shooting. Thanks to that I did a very big thing for Egypt, and I made my family and my country proud.”

Modern pentathlon action at Buenos Aires 2018 continues with the men’s event on Sunday 14 October at multiple venues at Youth Olympic Park.