Today at the Olympics: the Mena athletes to watch in Tokyo

2020 Games underway after a year's delay

A celebration of Japanese culture, history and innovation, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games was launched with a spectacular opening ceremony on Friday.

Many of the events are now underway, and below are the pick of the athletes in action from the Mena region on Saturday.

Archery - mixed team

Yumenoshima Ranking Field

The archers are at it today, in the mixed team event, of which the full competition will be concluded with bronze medal and gold medal matches. The Egyptian and Tunisian teams are in the mix.

Artistic Gymnastics (men)

Ariake Gymnastics Centre

Among those to watch are 2021 African Championships gold medallist, Egypt’s Omar Mohamed, and three-time Olympian Alexander Shatilov from Israel.

Badminton

Musashino Forest Plaza

Badminton gets underway with representatives from Egypt and Israel among the many teams looking prize medals away from the Chinese.

Look out for Syrian-born Aram Mahmoud, who will be competing on the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT), as he takes on world No 7 Jonatan Christie from Indonesia. In a recent interview Aram said he would be “playing not only for my country, but for refugees all around the world - there are a lot of people who need that motivation to achieve the unexpected.”

Boxing - Various preliminaries

Kokugican Arena

The preliminary boxing rounds in all women’s and four of the eight men’s weight classes.

A big fight to watch will be Algeria’s Abdelhafid Benchabla, who was just shy of a medal in Beijing, London and Rio, finishing in fifth in the light heavyweight classes in all three games. He will be fighting 2017 World Championship bronze medallist Sanjar Tursunov from Uzbekistan.

The first inter-regional contest of the Games comes in the evening session between Iran’s Daniyal Shahbakhsh and Morocco’s Mohamed Hamout in the men’s featherweight (52kg-57kg).

Road Cycling - men’s race

Fuji International Speedway

On the back of his second Tour de France victory, UAE Team Emirates cyclist Tadej Pogacar is hot favourite, riding for Slovenia. There will be cyclists from Iran, Morocco, Eritrea and Algeria to keep an eye on.

Fencing - women's epee and men’s sabre

Makuharri Messe

World No 11 in women’s epee is Tunisia’s Sarra Besbes, who will be taking on Italy’s Federica Isola in what promises to be a thrilling encounter.

There will be representatives in action from Algeria, Egypt and Iran.

Handball - men

Yoyogi National Stadium

The men’s Bahraini handball team will be making their Olympic debut when they take on four-time and 2012 silver medallists Sweden.

As world ranked No 15, Egypt are hoping to get off to a strong start. The Pharoahs will be playing their opening game against Portugal.

Shooting - women’s 10m air rifle and men’s air pistol

Asaka Shooting Range

Iran will be the nation to watch in the 10m events. World ranked No 4, Javad Foroughi, will be hoping to continue the momentum from his ISSF World Cup win last month.

Worth also keeping tabs on is Iran’s women’s 10m air rifle team that picked up gold in the ISSF World Cup. Armina Sadeghian and Fatemeh Karamzadeh will both be aiming for the podium.

Swimming

Tokyo Aquatics Centre

It’s a busy evening session to open up the swimming at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Look out for 20-year old Jordanian Amro Al-Wir in the men’s 100m breaststroke.

Expect to see athletes from Egypt and Israel in this session.

Table Tennis - women’s and wen’s singles, doubles and mixed

Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium

The Chinese have had a firm grip on table-tennis throughout ping-pong’s Olympic history, winning 28 of all 32 gold medals awarded.

In action is 12-year-old Syrian Hend Zaza, the youngest Olympian at the 2020 Games, and the only Syrian to have ever made the Olympics by qualification.

From this region, the heavyweights to watch are the Egyptian pair, Omar Assar and Dina Meshref, who will be taking on South Korea’s Sangsu Lee and Jihee Jeon in the mixed doubles.

Taekwondo - women’s 49kg, men’s 58kg

Plenty of talent from the region on the opening day of Taekwondo. The biggest name is Iranian world No 5 Armin Seighalani in the men’s 58kg weight class. Also look out for 20-year-old Moroccan Oumaima Bouchti, ranked world No 15 in the women’s 49kg, and gold medallist at the African Championships this year.

Updated: July 24th 2021, 7:46 AM
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