Algerians evaluate Olympic performance

As the Olympic Games in London drew to a spectacular close on Sunday (August 12th), Algerian athletes and sport officials looked back at their country’s participation.

Runner Taoufik Makhloufi was Algeria’s lone medallist in the Games. He won in the men’s 1500m race on August 7th and became the first Maghreb athlete to bring home gold in the London Olympics, followed by Tunisian swimmer Oussama Mellouli.

“I’ve suffered a lot in recent months,” Makhloufi said. “I’ve worked hard to win a medal, and thank God who has rewarded me with this win.”

He participated in the race after being reinstated by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF). Makhloufi was cut from the Games for “failure to compete honestly with bona fide effort” in the 800m heat on August 6th. The IAAF reversed its decision after learning that Makhloufi, who was recovering from a knee injury, had not expected to compete in the event.

“I am very happy with the gold medal and I dedicate it to Algerians, Arabs and Muslims,” he told Al Jazeera Sports after the decoration ceremony. “Algerians deserve this joy. We have demonstrated through this success that Algeria has top athletes, especially in mid-distances and is still present at this level of the competition.”

“Makhloufi’s medal will motivate other athletes to excel in the future,” Algerian Olympic Committee President Rachid Hanifi said.

However, the 2012 Olympics also laid bare the numerous challenges that Algerian sports face. “We must work as of today to improve the situation,” Hanifi said.

Judo and boxing competitors, who were expected to produce big results, did not live up to the expectations.

While boxers Abdelhafid Benchebla (81kg) and Mohamed Amine Ouadahi (56kg) came very close to winning bronze awards, judokas Soraya Haddad and Sonia Asselah were eliminated in the first rounds.

Algerian players need real support and work on the long run to be able to compete internationally, said Haddad’s coach Mohamed Bouhadou.

Even experienced boxers like Abdelkader Chadi and Chouaib Bouloudinet did not make it to the second rounds. Still, their technical coach Mourad Meziane said that the two boxers’ performance was generally “satisfactory”.

“I’m satisfied with the technical performance of our boxers who did what they were supposed to do,” he told APS. “However, there were some external factors that we couldn’t control, such as refereeing.”

For his part, Algerian Olympic delegation chief Mohamed Azzoug commented that the state “had invested much in sports”, but “the policy must be changed, and new methods considered”. Former Olympic track and field champion Noureddine Morceli told Magharebia that athletes must be supported and helped to improve their levels.

In 2008, Algeria won two medals. Judoka Haddad earned bronze, and Amar Ben Yekhlef snagged silver.

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