Egypt’s Alaaeldin Abouelkassem beat world number one Andrea Cassara of Italy in the men’s foil on Tuesday to become the first African fencer to reach the semi-finals 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 who make this result. But it is not finished yet. I still have semi-final or final or bronze medal match so I have to concentrate on the next one,” Abouelkassem said.
“I think every match I am better than the match before, so I think the last match I was better than the match before that and so on,” he added.
Announcers referenced the historical importance of his achievement, drawing louder applause from the spectators, many of whom are new to fencing and are getting commentary through wireless headsets to explain the rules and blisteringly fast action.
Abouelkassem has broken into the top 10 on the Federation International d’Escrime point rankings in the last two seasons.
Eighth in the world, he did come tantalizingly close to a semi-final in the 2010 Paris world championships where he took sixth.
Abouelkassem trained in Alexandria before the London Games opened instead of Cairo as the capital is in political upheaval in the wake of the Arab Spring which led to the ousting of president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 after 30 years in power.
The margins of victory were consistent, as he beat his opponents 15-10 in every bout, or match, of the day, including a triumph over perennial threat and four-times world champion Peter Joppich of Germany in the round of 16.
“My dream is over. I am of course very disappointed. I came here to win,” said Joppich.