Lebanon’s Shaito follows his sister home as Egyptian makes history

Lebanon’s Zain Shaito, left, lost to China’s Zhu Jun during their Men’s foil bout as part of the fencing event.

LONDON: Zain Shaito crashed out of the Men’s Individual Foil Tuesday following a 15-2 loss to Jun Zhu of China in the Round of 64 at the ExCel South Arena.

In the first period Shaito struck two points to Zhu’s seven, and was completely overwhelmed by the Chinese in the second period, failing to win a point to his opponent’s eight. Shaito follows his sister Mona, who competed in the Women’s Individual Foil, out of the Olympics.

Speaking to The Daily Star prior to the Games, Shaito – born and raised in America but representing Lebanon, the birthplace of his father – stated that he had not harbored medal aspirations at this year’s Olympics, but planned instead to use the experience in order to develop his game before the 2016 Games in Rio Di Janeiro:

“My goal [for London] is to fight my hardest and use this as experience for the Olympic Games in Brazil in four years where I will have the best chance to [win a] medal.”

Egypt’s Alaaeldin Abouelkassem beat world No. 1 Andrea Cassara of Italy in the men’s foil Tuesday to become the first African fencer to reach the semifinals at an Olympics.

The 21-year-old from Alexandria beat Cassara by a score of 15-10, using an athletic combination of running attacks that kept the Italian, who took bronze in Athens, off balance.

“I am the first African or Arabian to get this result – but it is not finished yet. I still have the semifinal and possible final or bronze medal matches so I have to concentrate on the next bout,” Abouelkassem said.

“Every match I improve – I feel in the last match I was better than the one before,” he added.

Announcers’ references to the historical significance of his achievement drew loud applause from spectators, many of whom are new to fencing and get commentary from wireless headsets to explain the rules.

Abouelkassem has broken into the top 10 on the Federation International d’Escrime point rankings in the last two seasons.

Now world No. 8, he came close to a semifinal in the 2010 Paris world championships, where he finished sixth.

His margin of victory is remarkably consistent, beating his opponents 15-10 in every bout of the day, including a triumph over perennial threat and four-time world champion Peter Joppich of Germany in the last round.

“My dream is over. I am of course very disappointed. I came here to win,” Joppich said.

A South Korean fencer who staged a tearful hourlong sit-in protest over judging at the Olympics is in line for a special sportsmanship award, her country’s top Games official said Tuesday.

Park Yong-Sung, president of South Korea’s National Olympic Committee, said the International Fencing Federation made the offer after admitting a time-keeping problem.

In amazing scenes Shin, sobbing and shaking her head, refused to leave the piste for more than an hour after Monday’s epee semifinal defeat to Germany’s Britta Heidemann.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 01, 2012, on page 14.




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