First medals claimed in All Africa Games
By Lyes Aflou for Magharebia in Algiers – 13/07/2007
Competition opened Thursday (June 12th) in the majority of events at the 9th All Africa Games in Algiers. Host nation Algeria claimed one gold, two silver and three bronze medals in judo, Tunisia took gold in fencing and South Africa took three gold medals in swimming.
Algeria's first gold medal came courtesy of judoka Rachida Ouerdane, who overcame Senegal's Gisele Mendy in the under-70kg final. Mandi had previously defeated the Algerian at the 2003 Games in Abuja. "I’m really happy, and I’ve honoured my country all the more because these Games are being held at home in this country," Ouerdane said. "It’s a great feeling to win here in Algeria." Algeria also took two silver and three bronze medals in this sport.
Algeria also claimed two medals in the swimming events, with a silver for Sofiane Daid and a bronze in the women’s team event. However, South Africa stole the show on the first day of competition, earning three gold medals.
In football, the Algerian women’s team redeemed themselves in Group A following an earlier loss to Ghana, scoring three goals in the first 15 minutes of a 3-1 match against Senegal. Coach Azzedine Mechih was pleased with the result. "Today we showed we can play better and win," he said. "Now that we’re almost certain to qualify, we’re going to take our time so we’re better prepared for what happens next. I’m very proud of my team’s performance; they did everything they were told to do against a very physical Senegalese team." In Group B, Nigeria beat Ethiopia 2-0.
In women’s Group A basketball, Cameroon, scheduled to play Algeria Thursday, withdrew from competition on Wednesday, Mozambique dominated the Ivory Coast, winning 63-39, and a match between DR Congo and Angola ended with a final score of 74-58. Reigning African champions Nigeria soundly beat Zimbabwe 85-55, while Kenya overcame Tunisia. Senegal finally gained the upper hand over Mali, winning 94-56.
In the men’s competition, Algeria narrowly defeated South Africa in a 65-59 game in Algiers’ Harcha arena. Egypt triumphed over Tunisia with an 86-64 victory, while Senegal withdrew from the event and the Ivory Coast team has yet to arrive in Algiers, with only one more day until they will be forced to withdraw. Cameroon and Nigeria beat Liberia and Mali respectively, while Angola scored a win against DR Congo.
In boxing, traditionally a strong event for Algeria, 22 matches were fought Thursday in Bordj El-Kiffan, an eastern suburb of the capital. Two Algerians made it through to the finals -- Boubraout Hammoud in the 48kg category, and Kramo Hamza in the 60kg category. Brahim Bedjaoui,the Algerian coach, said "the standard was average. Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria can expect to win medals in the light of the deterioration of African boxing." 34 countries are competing in the discipline, with 180 boxers fighting a total of 169 matches.
In fencing, a new event at the Games, Tunisia and Egypt excelled against clearly weaker Algerian and South African opponents. Tunisia’s Mohamed Smaidi took the gold by defeating his Egyptian opponent in the final. In the women’s competition Egypt won gold and Tunisia took silver.
The first day’s competition witnessed an unfortunate event in the equestrian competition. South Africa arrived to the race track in Boumerdes without their horses. The race was postponed but not cancelled, as Algeria has agreed to loan horses to the South African team.
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