Egypt’s Olympic Medalists – Part 4

Today we bring you the final part of our attempt to clarify the biographical details of the lives of Egypt’s Olympic medalists and are focusing on the 1952 and 1960 Summer Games. After participating in Helsinki, Egypt boycotted the 1956 Olympics in protest of the Suez War, although it sent competitors to the equestrian events, which were held several months prior to the Games due to Australian quarantine restrictions. It then competed in the next three editions as the “United Arab Republic”, due to its political union with Syria, although by 1964 Syria had left the union and in 1960 there is no evidence that any Syrians actually competed in the Games. After earning two medals in 1960, Egypt would only see the podium once more prior to 2004, at which point sport was sufficiently globalized and covered in the media to pre-empt any mysteries surrounding Olympic medalists. Even by 1960 the situation had improved greatly, although there is still a little worth discussing.

Abdel Aal Rashid – Bronze medalist in Featherweight Greco-Roman Wrestling, 1952: Egypt’s only medalist at the 1952 Summer Olympics was Abdel Aal Rashid, who won a bronze medal in Greco-Roman wrestling’s featherweight division. As this was his only major international podium finish, there is very little additional information on him available. We uncovered an interview he gave to Al-Ahram after the Games, which confirms his commonly-seen date of birth of December 27, 1927 and gives us a little history of his life, including the fact that he was born and raised in Alexandria. After that, we have been unable to uncover any significant trace of him, or even been able to ascertain whether or not he is still alive (which is certainly within the realm of possibility at the age of 90) as one of the oldest Olympians.

Osman El-Sayed – Silver medalist in Flyweight Greco-Roman Wrestling, 1960: Osman El-Sayed had won a silver medal at the 1955 Mediterranean Games, so he was a little more well-known when he reached the podium at the 1960 Games in flyweight Greco-Roman wrestling. Different sources list his place of birth as either Cairo or Alexandria but, based on the evidence we have seen, we feel that the latter is most likely correct. One difficulty in finding information about him, as we later discovered, was that in Arabic he went by the name “Eid Osman”, which is a common phrase in the language and can be difficult to search for. We were able to find out, however, that he died on April 21, 2013, unfortunately with limited fanfare, despite some sources that continue to list him as still alive.

Abdel Moneim El-Gindy – Bronze medalist in Flyweight Boxing, 1960: Like Osman El-Sayed, Abdel Moneim El-Gindy entered the 1960 Summer Olympics as a known entity, having won gold at the 1959 Mediterranean Games. Of the era’s three medalists, he was probably the most well-known, and the only point of contention is his date of birth: some sources lists June 12, 1936, while others mention December 1936, making it likely that some of these have simply reversed the correct date order (12-6-1936 vs. 6-12-1936). While we are working to clarify this point, we do know that he died March 17, 2011, although unfortunately this coincided with the tumultuous Egyptian Revolution of that year, and thus his death gained less attention than it might have otherwise.

In 1984, Mohamed Ali Rashwan took silver in judo’s open class, which was Egypt’s only Olympic medal between 1960 and its successes at the 2004 Games. From this point on, the nation’s Olympic medalists received the historical attention that they deserved, which means that our job is complete. Of course, we will keep researching and utilizing our contacts to uncover the information that is missing but, in the meantime, it is time to move on to a new topic. Next week we are going to turn to Canada and focus more on our eponymous topic of the oldest Olympians. Canada is a nation that has had three Olympians reach the age of 99 but, to our knowledge, none that have made it to 100. We’ll be taking a looking at these three and featuring the stories of their lives, so we hope you’ll join us!

Egypt’s Olympic Medalists – Part 3

Today we bring you Part 3 of our attempt to clarify the biographical details of the lives of Egypt’s Olympic medalists and are focusing on the 1948 Summer Games. In terms of medal count, this was Egypt’s most successful appearance and, while records were getting better, there still remains some mystery about the medalists from these Games.

Mahmoud Fayad – Olympic Champion in Featherweight Weightlifting: With Ibrahim Shams having moved up a weight category and Saleh Mohamed Soliman having seemingly disappeared from the sporting scene, the two pre-war Egyptian medalists in Olympic featherweight weightlifting were out of contention for the1948 Games. This set the stage for Mahmoud Fayad to triumph in the event and establish his legacy among Egypt’s great champions. A World silver medalist in 1946, he went on to become World Champion in 1949 and 1950, leading to numerous works being written about him. They all agree that he was born March 9, 1925 in Alexandria, while his obituary in Al-Ahram confirms that he died there on December 18, 2002, making him one of the few Egyptian Olympic medalists for whom data is consistent and reliable.

Ibrahim Shams – Olympic Champion in Lightweight Weightlifting: We mentioned last week that Ibrahim Shams took bronze in the featherweight weightlifting tournament at the 1936 Games but, during World War II, he moved up in weight category with great success, as he captured the Olympic lightweight title in 1948. As we mentioned above, we are still trying to determine which (if either) of his birth or death dates was January 15 instead of 16 but, for the most part, information on his life is as consistent as it is with Fayad.

Attia Mohammed – Silver medalist in Lightweight Weightlifting: History has not been as kind, however, to the runner-up to Shams’ victory, Attia Mohammed, another Olympic medalist whose very used name could be the subject of debate. His full name was Attia Mohammed Hamouda, but what he actually went by varies from source to source and tournament to tournament, although “Attia Mohammed” seems most common in Arabic-language materials, although very little was written about him overall. His year of birth (we have no exact date) is seen as both 1914 and 1922, but pictures of him in sporting magazines of the early 1930s demonstrate that the latter is impossible (the one above, for example, comes from a 1934 publication). As for his year of death, the Egyptian Olympic Committee (EOC) gives 1992, but we have seen no other source to collaborate this, and the lack of an exact date makes it difficult to search for him in the Al-Ahram archives. Thus we continue to seek confirmation.

Mahmoud Hassan – Silver medalist in Bantamweight Greco-Roman Wrestling: Mahmoud Hassan was the 1947 bantamweight Greco-Roman World Champion, but he had to settle for silver in that category at the 1948 Summer Olympics. At the 1951 Mediterranean Games, however, he took the gold medal once again. Most sources have him born December 15, 1919 and dying September 10, 1998, but we were unable to verify the latter date in Al-Ahram. While we have no reason to doubt this date, it would be nice to obtain some additional confirmation.

Ibrahim Orabi – Bronze medalist in Light-Heavyweight Greco-Roman Wrestling: Only by virtue of his longer and more noted career does Ibrahim Orabi surrender the title of Egypt’s most enigmatic Olympic medalist to Saleh Mohamed Soliman. The EOC lists virtually nothing about him, other than that he won a bronze medal in light-heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestling at the 1948 Games. We also know that he competed as a middleweight at the 1936 edition, where he placed fifth, and won a light-heavyweight silver medal at the 1951 Mediterranean Games. Aside from this, contemporary reports list him as being from Alexandria, and we have no reason to doubt the year of birth of 1912 that we often see ascribed to him. After 1951, he seems to disappear from the historical records and, given that it is highly unlikely (albeit not impossible) that he is still alive, we have been unable to locate any information on the circumstances surrounding his death.

Next week we will be wrapping up this series by looking at Egypt’s medalists from the 1952 and 1960 Olympics, as the nation only saw the podium once more – in 1984 – between 1960 and 2004. We will also finish our survey with a few concluding remarks, before moving on to new topics beginning two weeks from now.