Soraya Haddad earns first medal for Algeria
By Nazim Fethi for Magharebia in Algiers – 11/08/08
Algerian judoka Soraya Haddad won the first Olympic medal for Algeria, Africa, and the Arab world on Sunday (August 10th), taking bronze in the -52kg category at the 2008 games in Beijing.
"This is a big day for me. I hope it won't be my last Olympic medal," said 23-year-old Haddad, who finished third after defeating Kazakhstan's Sholpan Kaliyeva. Despite overwhelming emotion, she made it a point to wish her fellow Algerian athletes at the Games the best of luck.
Haddad was congratulated by Mohamed Meridja, President of the Algerian Judo Federation; Mustapha Berraf, President of the Algerian Olympic Committee, who was unable to hold back tears of joy; and her coach, Hamid Chaalal. Her achievement created a mood of celebration among the Algerian delegation in Beijing, as it represents a turn in Algeria's luck after a fruitless 2004 appearance in Athens.
On Monday, the Algerian press made much of this first medal for Algeria. Liberté wrote: "Rightly considered Algeria's best hope for a medal in these Olympics, judoka Soraya Haddad has succeeded in winning a bronze medal, which is worth its weight in gold as the first Olympic medal won by Algeria since the Sydney Games."
Le Temps described Algeria's first medal as "an unprecedented achievement for African and Arab women's judo. After boxing and athletics, judo is the third sport in which Algeria has achieved success at the Olympics. It was a historic day for Haddad and Algerian judo, which finally has an Olympic medal after tasting success at the 2005 World Championships in Cairo, thanks once again to Haddad along with Abderrahmane Benamadi, who won bronze and gold respectively."
"My goal is the same and has been for a long time," Haddad told the Dépêche de Kabylie days earlier in South Korea. "I want to do better than I did in Athens and try to make it onto the podium. For the national team the aim is to go as far as possible."
In the World Super Cup, Soraya Haddad has always done Algerian judo proud, the paper continued. She finished third in Hamburg in 2005, second in the same city two years later, and second in Paris just weeks ago. Her most precious victory prior to the Olympics, however, was her gold-medal finish at the 2005 Mediterranean Games in Almeria, Spain.
Le Jeune Indépendant wrote: "Standing 155cm tall, the diminutive Algerian showed terrific pluck yesterday before losing her semi-final match against North Korea's An Kum Ae. 'I can’t find the words to express how I feel. I’m very moved to have won the bronze... I’d like to dedicate this medal to the people of Algeria and my whole family,' the Algerian champion said yesterday just after winning her bronze medal."
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