Arab athletes on road to Paris 2024: Boukhiam makes waves, Egypt’s handball group of death

This summer's Games in French capital now just 100 days away

Ramzi Boukhiam during the quarter-finals of the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal at Peniche, Leiria, on March 16, 2024. World Surf League
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The Paris 2024 Olympics are 100 days away and whether they have already clinched their spots, or are still fighting to secure qualification for the Games, the Arab world’s top athletes have been as busy as ever, gearing up for this summer’s action in the French capital.

Here are some of the latest updates on the Road to Paris 2024.

Morocco’s Boukhiam makes the cut

Over in Western Australia, Moroccan surfer Ramzi Boukhiam has made the cut on the WSL’s Championship Tour, ensuring he will continue competing in the league’s premier competition until at least the end of the 2024 season.

Boukhiam, who is the first Arab surfer to qualify for the Championship Tour, is currently No 13 in the live rankings, with the midseason cut line set to eliminate all the surfers ranked 23 and below by the end of this week’s action Down Under.

Already an Olympian and Morocco’s flag-bearer during the opening ceremony at Tokyo 2020, Boukhiam recently secured the silver medal at the ISA World Surfing Games in Puerto Rico to officially qualify for the Paris 2024 Games.

Not too long before Puerto Rico, Boukhiam had dislocated his shoulder and was struggling physically in the build-up. He battled hard through 14 gruelling heats to make the podium and punched his ticket to his second Olympic Games.

“I’m proud of myself because I went warrior mode fully,” Boukhiam told me in this week’s episode of Abtal, reflecting on his time in Puerto Rico.

“Because it was really painful. That was a really intense week, maybe the most intense week of my life honestly.

“I was all beat up at the end, my back, my shoulder, my neck everything was destroyed but I brought the silver medal and the Olympic qualification so I was really, really happy and proud of myself there.

“It was a turning point. It was a turning point and it was pretty much the point I was like, all the hard work was for this, this is your present.”

The surfing competition for this year’s Olympics will take place in Tahiti and Boukhiam says he is eyeing nothing but gold this time around.

“I have my second chance now, going to Tahiti on a wave like Teahupoʻo, it’s the most dangerous but most perfect wave on the planet. So as a surfer it doesn’t get much better than that, you’re scared but it’s super exciting at the same time,” he added.

Check out the full conversation with Boukhiam here:

Group of death for Egypt’s handball heroes

After barely missing out on the podium in men’s handball at Tokyo 2020, finishing fourth behind Denmark, France and Spain, Egypt head to Paris this summer as serious medal contenders.

But in order to fulfil their much talked about potential, the Pharaohs must first navigate a brutal Group B that includes reigning Olympic champions and hosts France, Tokyo silver medallists Denmark, as well as Norway, Hungary and Argentina.

The draw, which was unveiled on Tuesday, has placed three of the top four teams from the 2020 Games all in one group, which means everyone must come out firing straight out of the blocks, with zero margin for error.

Arab women cyclists on the rise

For the first time in history, four Arab women will compete in cycling events at the Olympics.

After UAE’s Safiya Al Sayegh and Algeria’s Nesrine Houili punched their tickets to Paris’ road race at the end of last year, Egyptian duo Ebtissam Zayed and Shahd Saeed locked down their spots on the track this week. Zayed secured a continental quota place in the Omnium, with Saeed qualifying in the Sprint race.

Don’t miss my conversation with Al Sayegh on the Abtal podcast in which the Emirati trailblazer discusses her cycling journey so far, the challenges she had to overcome, and her hopes for Paris 2024.

Abu Al Soud makes history for Jordan

Two-time world championship medallist Ahmad Abu Al Soud has officially secured his place in Paris after topping the pommel horse standings in the FIG World Cup series to become the first Jordanian gymnast to qualify for an Olympic Games.

The fourth and final leg of the series takes place in Doha this week (April 17-20) but Abu Al Soud has already guaranteed qualification as he leads the standings with 73 points, thanks to a gold medal finish at the World Cup stop in Cairo, and a silver medal showing in Cottbus, Germany.

“Elhamdolillah I have made history and have qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympics as the first ever Jordanian gymnast to do so,” the 28-year-old posted on his Instagram on Wednesday.

“It’s a dream come true after lots of hard work and determination. I congratulate everyone who has believed in me from family, friends and loved ones.”

Six Arab teams vie for football qualification

The AFC Under-23 Asian Cup kicked off in Doha on Monday with three Olympic qualification spots up for grabs.

The two finalists and the winner of the bronze-medal match will all clinch a place in the men’s football event in Paris this summer and competition will be fierce between the six Arab nations in action in Qatar.

The tournament comprises four groups of four and runs from April 15 to May 3.

The Draw

Group A: Qatar, Australia, Jordan, Indonesia

Group B: South Korea, Japan, UAE, China

Group C: Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Tajikistan, Iraq

Group D: Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Kuwait, Malaysia

Updated: May 02, 2024, 8:21 AM