Saudi Olympic silver medalist Tarek Hamdi lands in Jeddah to a hero’s welcome

Update Saudi Olympic silver medalist Tarek Hamdi lands in Jeddah to a hero’s welcome
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Update Saudi Olympic silver medalist Tarek Hamdi lands in Jeddah to a hero’s welcome
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Updated 09 August 2021

Saudi Olympic silver medalist Tarek Hamdi lands in Jeddah to a hero’s welcome

Saudi Olympic silver medalist Tarek Hamdi lands in Jeddah to a hero’s welcome
  • The 23-year-old, accompanied by Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal, the Saudi Arabian  Olympic Committee President, was greeted with applause and confetti after his historic achievment at Tokyo 2020

DUBAI: Saudi athlete Tarek Hamdi, fresh from winning a stunning silver medal in the Men’s karate competition at Tokyo 2020,  has landed in Jeddah to a hero’s welcome, accompanied by Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal, the Saudi Arabian  Olympic Committee President.

On their arrival from the Japanese capital, the Saudi delegation were greeted with cheers and and clouds of confetti to hail the 23-year-old’s historic achievement.

Hamdi’s silver was the Kingdom’s only medal of the Tokyo Olympics, but it could have been even more if it wasn’t for a penalty decision that prevented a victory that was agonisingly within reach. 

Hamdi had endured a heartbreaking end to the final of the Men’s Karate Kumite +75kg when a penalty for dangerous play denied him a gold when he was leading 4-1 against Sajag Ganzjadeh of Iran, who departed the mat at Nippon Budokan arena on a stretcher. The match was awarded as a default 4-0 win for the Iranian.

The Olympic silver remains an outstanding achievement for Hamdi, who since the final has been hailed as an inspirational champion across Saudi Arabia and the Arab world.

Hamdi avoided commenting on what had happened in the final, saying that he respected the decision taken by the officials of the match, despite the fact that the referee’s decision was a bolt from the blue.

“It was really a shock, but we could do nothing other than respecting the decision,” he said. “However, gold will, for sure, come in the competitions of the near future,”

Hamdi told Arab News that his silver medal is the first Saudi Olympic medal since the one that Hadi Sua’an secured at the Sydney 2000 Games, when he won the silver medal in the 400m hurdles.



He said this proves that Saudi athletes are capable of achieving Olympic success.

“We have reached the final, and we may win gold in the coming events. We have the Paris Games in two years, and if Karate will be included in that edition of the Games, we are hopeful to win more than a medal,” Hamdi said.

The Saudi champion pointed out that it took him a long time to prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Games.

“I had to train hard and prepare for this competition for nearly two years, with ambition and insistence to do something for my beloved country,” he said.

He noted that he and his fellow athletes had received all the support from the Ministry of Sports, and that all along his ambition was to win gold.  

“We were fully supported by the government of the Two Holy Mosques, his Crown Prince, the minister of sports and the deputy of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, who are supporting the Saudi sport in general. I really appreciate all their efforts.”

“Gold was our ambition and that is what Saudi Arabia really deserves” said Hamdi. “I did my best…However, it is the decree of Allah, and He does what He wills. Thank God for all.”

Hamdi said that he was under big pressure to win all the battles, especially after the 3-2 loss to the Croatian athlete Ivan Kvesic in the first fight. However, he said that it was a "good loss".

“The first loss was actually advantageous. It pushed me to bring out the best of me, and that really happened,” he said.

Dr. Mushrif Al-Shihry, head of the Saudi Karate Federation said that Hamdi has become a global inspiration.

“The World Karate Federation has seen the skills and excellent performance of Hamdi, who is a role model to all karate players in the world,” he said. “He succeeded in showing the whole world the capabilities of the Saudi players.”



He added that they had set a detailed preparation plan for the Tokyo Games, and it was a success.

“Another work plan will prepare our players for the world championship, which will be held in Dubai,” said Al-Shihry.

“Hamdi and his colleagues will produce better performances and they will achieve even better results. We have hired a highly proficient coach, whose efforts were fruitful in Tokyo.

“We have a group of Saudi female karate players. We are now looking for a good coach to train them. The next Asian Championship will see the first official participation of a Saudi Karate female team,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Moroccan national coach of the Saudi karate team, Mounir Afkir, told Arab News that Hamdi’s loss to 2018 World Champion Kvesic did not have any lasting effects.

“I asked Hamdi to forget about the loss and concentrate on the coming fights. Luckily, I succeeded in taking the champion Hamdi out of the bad mood. He did well in the next match against the American [Brian Irr] before sharing the spoils with the Iranian athlete, Sajad Ganjzadeh’s, who is the world champion five times,” Afkir said.

Hamdi, the coach added, was of high morals and was able to defeat his Canadian opponent.

“Hamedi is the best karate player in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and he would have won the gold medal if it was not for the referee’s decision, which was built on Ganjzadeh’s exaggerated response to Hamdi’s kick,” Afkir said.

Commenting on Hamdi’s controversial kick, the coach said that the rules are clear.

“The video did not show the kick in a clear way. The rules of the game state that a game official relies on the decision of the physician in such cases. If the doctor says that it was an aggressive kick, then the referee can disqualify the violator,” he said.

He explained that the whole issue was with the Iranian player who might have felt he was about to lose the contest.

“When Ganjzadeh felt that Hamdi was going to win, he excessively pretended that he was severely injured, and this is not ethical at all. What is important to us is that the world knows that the Iranian player's behavior was not honest and Hamdi is the one who deserved gold,” he said.