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African Championships: Samir wins for dominant Egypt, and it’s down to the wire for Nigeria and Madagascar

A rush of winners in the heavier weight categories for men and women took host nation Egypt clear at the top of the medals table at the 2024 African Championships in Ismailia.

Sara Samir was among them as she claimed her ninth continental title as a youth, junior and senior. Samir declined her final attempt in the 81kg category after making five good lifts for 113-140-253.

Sara Samir (EGY)

Like all continental championships this month, this was an Olympic qualifier. Egypt’s biggest gain in the rankings was made by Karim Abokahla at 89kg, where his 170-211-381 took him ahead of Italy’s Tokyo medallist Nino Pizzolato into sixth place.

That is only 6kg below Abokahla’s best total in the 102kg rankings, where he is just outside the top 10.  

Karim Abokahla (EGY)

Other Paris-bound Egyptian winners were Neama Said and Halima Abbas. Said, sixth in the 71kg list, moved up to 76kg where she made 100-130-230, and Abbas took the super-heavyweights on 117-145-262.

Walid Bidani from Algeria had a bad day in the men’s super-heavyweights, bombing out in clean and jerk after making 203kg in snatch. Bouamr Bilal from Morocco was 51kg behind at halfway, and won on 152-185-337. The news got worse for Bidani when he dropped down the rankings after results at the Asian Championships a day later.

Nigeria won two of the women’s Olympic categories but made no gains in the lists and will need improvement at the IWF World Cup in Thailand, which brings the qualifying programme to a close when it ends on April 11.

Rafiatu Lawal and Adijat Olarinoye, first and second at 59kg, were both well down on their best qualifying efforts. Lawal made 95-119-214 and Olarinoye 94-115-209 with only two good lifts.

Joy Eze had a good chance to move into the top 10 at 71kg but missed her last two attempts. Eze moved up from 19th to 13th in making 104-130-234 but had been lifting more in her preparations.

Other nations with work to do in Thailand are Tunisia and Madagascar, both of which have hopes of qualifying two athletes.

It will be a huge task for Ghofrane Belkhir, who weighed in without lifting in the women’s 59kg and has a few more weeks to regain full fitness after an injury that has stopped her competing for more than a year.

She remains one of only two athletes among 600 in the rankings who have a zero total but could yet qualify with a big effort in Thailand. The other is Enzo Kuworge from the Netherlands in the men’s super-heavyweights, who has also been injured.

Ben Hnia (TUN)

Another who has had injury problems is Belkhir’s Tunisia team-mate Karem Ben Hnia. He declined three of his attempts in winning the men’s 73kg on 145-175-320. In the Paris rankings he is 1kg ahead of Tojo Andriatsitsohaina from Madagascar, who bombed out in clean and jerk after snatching 146kg.

It will be a tense finish in Thailand. Either of them could make the top 10, and if neither makes it they will be head-to-head for a continental place.

Madagascar’s other hope is Rosina Randafiarison, who showed signs of improvement in making 74-95-169 in the women’s 49kg. It was her best effort since moving up from 45kg and she has a 4kg lead over Dika Toua from Papua New Guinea in the race for a continental slot.

Toua, aiming for a record sixth Olympic Games, competes in the Oceania Championships in New Zealand later this month.

By Brian Oliver

Photos by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia