High hopes for Arab stars at the Tokyo Olympics

High hopes for Arab stars at the Tokyo Olympics
The long-awaited Tokyo Olympics will see a record number of Arab athletes taking part in the games - here we run through the names expected to shine brightest during the world's most famous sporting event.
3 min read
Ray Bassil (L), Oussama Mellouli (B,R), Mutaz Barshim (T,R) [Getty Images]

A year's delay in the Tokyo Summer Olympics, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, could be seen as having a positive impact on athletes competing, having allowed more time for the Arab Olympic team to prepare. The team are expected to achieve big things in the world's most prestigious sporting competition. 

A record number of Arab athletes are expected to compete at the championships, which will take place from 23rd July to 8th of August 2021. Those who have made it to the Olympics hold an impressive collection of medals, counting 23 gold, 24 silver and 47 bronze. 

The following list examines some of the names tipped to perform well at the upcoming games. 

Mutaz Barshim

Qatars star athlete who has won the high jump competition at the World Athletics Championships twice already, in London in 2017 and Doha in 2019, looks set to win the gold medal in Tokyo.  This is after winning a bronze medal at the London Olympics in 2012, and silver at Rio De Janeiro in 2016.

After setting an Asian indoor record and World junior record in 2010 with a jump of 2.37 meters, the 30-year old will likely face a unique challenge in what will be his last Olympic competition in a career punctuated with success. 

Abderrahman Samba

Another Qatari athlete expected to leave a big impression at the Olympics is Abderrahman Samba. He became the second fastest runner in the world when he won the 400 metres hurdles at the IAAF Diamond League in Paris in 2018, doing so in 46.98 seconds - only the second person in history to do so in under 47 seconds. 

Taoufik Makhloufi

Taoufik Makhloufi, the Algerian runner who won the gold medal in the 1500 metres at the London Olympics in 2021, will have the chance to continue his winning streak in Tokyo. Both at the 2021 African Athletics Championships and at the 2011 All-Africa Games, he won gold in the 800 metres race. 

Majd Eddin Ghazal

Another Arab star of track and field is Syrian high jump champion Ghazal, who competed in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, ranking 28th in London, and climbing to 7th place in Rio De Janeiro. In 2017 he won bronze at the World Athletics Championships in London, jumping 2.29 metres.

Oussama Mellouli

The 37-year old Tunisian swimming star plans to make his sixth Olympics appearance. He took part aged just 16 in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, going on to take part in Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008, London in 2012 and Rio De Janeiro in 2016. He was nicknamed the the "Shark of the Mediterranean" by the media after winning gold in the 10000m marathon in the London Olympics in 2021 and bronze in the 1500m freestyle in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. 

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Ray Bassil

The Lebanese trap shooting star is expected to win a medal in this international sporting festival after winning gold at the 2019 Asia Championships in trap shooting in Doha. Bassil faces a difficult challenge, especially after a far from ideal preparation period, where she was forced to train in her garage which she had transformed into a virtual shooting range. 

This article is part of The New Arab's special coverage of the Tokyo Olympics. Click here to read the whole series.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.