The Boxing Road to Paris Africa qualification tournament came to a conclusion in Dakar, Senegal, today. The gold medal matches of all 13 Olympic boxing events (7 men’s events, 6 women’s events) took place at the Dakar Arena, in front of thousands cheering local spectators.
The Africa qualification tournament assigned a total of 18 Paris 2024 Olympic quota places – the qualification slots for the next Olympic Games – with 1 quota place available in each men’s event and in the women’s 75kg event, and 2 quotas available in all other women’s events. That means that the winners of today’s men’s events and the women’s 75kg event all received a qualification berth, while the finalists in all other women’s events had already claimed a quota yesterday by winning their respective semifinals.
In the women’s 75kg category, Morocco’s Khadija Mardi – the 32-year-old reigning women’s 75kg African champion – claimed her ticket to Paris at the end of a tense match against Kenya’s Elizabeth Adhiambo Andiego. The Moroccan athlete led through the three rounds, eventually securing the brightest medal and the quota place with a unanimous decision score of 5-0. The technical match saw Mardi controlling her opponent through her longer reach and a show of dodge-and-hit combinations. Andiego got increasingly frustrated and was given a 1-point deduction amid round 2, jeopardizing her chances of success. But nothing is granted until the last gong in boxing, as a single blow can easily change the final outcome. Mardi kept cool and controlled the last section of the bout, taking full advantage of her long experience, to secure a spot in her second Olympic edition after Rio 2016 and skipping Tokyo 2020 as she gave birth to her third child.
In the women’s 54kg gold medal match, her teammate Bertal Widad (MAR) won with apparent ease her final match against Egypt’s Ayyad Yomna Ahmed Rezk Abdalla, claiming a unanimous decision from the judges.
Moments later, another Egyptian boxer, Elawady Omar Elsayed Ragab Elawad, clinched a razor-thin on-points victory in the men’s 71kg event, as he collected a 3 to 1 split decision against Kulenguluka Mbiya Steve (COD), thus securing the brightest medal and the Paris 2024 Olympic quota place at stake today. His teammate Abdelgawwad Abdelrahman Salah Orabi (EGY) secured another Olympic pass as he outscored Changalawe Yusuf Lucasi (TAN) 5-0 in the men’s 80kg final match.
In a big day for Team Nigeria, Omole Dolapo Joshua clinched a 3-2 win against Ethiopia Leta Fikremariyam Yadesa in the men’s 57kg final. The Nigerian athlete led round 1 and 2, and then controlled round 3, facing the relentless charges of his Ethiopian opponent who tried to knock him down right to the last second.
Omole’s will be traveling to Paris along with his teammate Olaore Olaitan Adam, who qualified for the next Games as he won the men’s 92kg final, outscoring Algeria’s Houmri Mohamed by 4-0 points, leading round 1 and 3 and controlling his opponents through round 2. Their team kept on celebrating even further, as Cynthia Temitayo Ogunsemilore prevailed in the women’s 60kg final match, outscoring 5 points to 0 Algeria’s Hadjila Khelif to secure the gold medal in the weight class.
Algeria’s super-heavyweight Kadi Mourad shuttered the qualification dream of the hosting country as he beat the local hero Diarga Balde of Senegal via a split decision (4:1) in the men’s +92kg category, booking a spot in the next Olympic Games. After leading round 1 and round 2, the experienced Algerian athlete limited damages in round 3 (which he lost) avoiding taking too many risks, to claim the brightest medal.
In a day of success for the boxing powerhouse, another Algerian athlete, Jugurtha Ait Bekka secured the men’s 63.5kg quota place and gold medal at stakes here in Dakar, as he beat 4-1 Mauritius’ Colin Louis Richarno. Their teammates Imane Khelif and Roumaysa Boualam also claimed a gold medal, in the women’s 66kg and 50kg categories, respectively.
Zambia’s Patrick Chinyemba knocked down Tunisia’s Ala Eddine Zidi Ala Eddine to secure a coveted Paris 2024 Olympic quota place in the men’s 51kg category, the only Olympic pass won by his country at this qualification tournament. Boxing with his unique style, the Zambian athlete measured his distance in round 1, led through round two, and eventually landed a left-hand blow that put an end to the bout in round 3. Ala Eddine Zidi Ala Eddine was immediately treated by the medical team on-site and transported to the local hospital for a potential humerus fracture. His teammate Khouloud Hlimi Ep Moulahi (TUN) won the women’s 57kg category gold medal by outscoring Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Sakobi Matshu Marcelat 5-0.
The Boxing Road to Paris qualification pathway will now continue at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou (CHN), to then proceed to the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago (CHI) and the Pacific Games in Honiara (SOL), later this year. After the continental qualifications, two World Qualification events will take place in Busto Arsizio (Italy) from February 29 to March 12, 2024, and in Bangkok (Thailand) from May 23 to June 3, 2024.
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