News / Africa

Medany Aims to be 1st Egyptian Woman to Medal at Olympics

Elizabeth Arrott & Japhet Weeks
As Egypt struggles to get back on its feet after 16 rocky months of revolution and military rule, the country's young Olympians are hoping to do the seemingly impossible under the circumstances, medal at the 2012 Olympics in London.  That's even tougher for pentathlete Aya Medany, 24.  As if training for one event were not hard enough, Egypt's Medany competes in swimming, horseback riding, fencing, and combined shooting and running.

"When I say that I play five events - swimming, running, shooting, fencing and riding - they say, 'Wow, so how can you do all this in one time?' I believe in my family always say, 'When we want to do something, we will do it. Whatever it is,'" said Medany.

And she does almost all of it wearing a hijab, or head scarf, the only one of 36 female pentathletes in London who will do so.

Ancient Egyptians immortalized their sportsmen in paintings like these.  But modern Egypt has failed to turn that legacy into consistent Olympic gold. The few medals it has tend to be in sports like wrestling and weightlifting.

The head of Egypt's Modern Pentathlon federation, Mohamed El Touni, thinks she can turn that around.

"Now I hope that my dream became true also, that Aya can catch a medal," he said.

Medany is Africa's best pentathlete and a real contender for a medal at this year's Olympics.  If she wins, she will be the first female Egyptian to ever do so.

But there have been a few extra obstacles thrown her way this year.  First, she's suffered from a back injury.  Second, this year's Olympics happen during the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims traditionally fast.  And third, a decision by the International Swimming Federation that prevents her from wearing a full body swimsuit and veil during competition.

Though the decision conflicts with her religious beliefs, Medany has opted to compete anyway.

Her swim coach Tariq El Nouweihi points out there is a difference between wearing a short-cut bathing suit for recreation versus competition.

"If she stays like this for entertainment, maybe it's not good, but if she swim for training it's good. Not bad," said El Nouweihi.

But the biggest obstacle of all was the upheaval that has taken place in Egypt over the past 16 months. The revolution that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak left the country's young Olympians scrambling for resources.

"After maybe the month of the revolution we [were] supposed to travel for a sports camp and a competition and there was a world cup in Egypt and it was canceled and we stayed like two months.  We didn't travel anywhere because there was a problem with money and with the airports and you [could not] travel and you [could not] come back," recalled Medany.

Still, even under these conditions Medany won gold at last year's Modern Pentathlon World Cup in Hungary.

She says the key to success is moderation.

"Everything is always by graduations, graduating. It's not only one time that I must to step the tenth stair and I don't go to the first and second and third. So I also take it step by step," Medany added.

As Egypt transitions from military rule to democracy for the first time in modern history, it's a lesson Medany hopes its new leaders would heed as well.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More