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

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

Ninety percent of homes in one small village were damaged or destroyed as government forces failed to stop a rebel advance More

Pakistan’s 'Last Self-Declared Jew' Attacked, Detained

Argument about the rights of non-Muslims in Pakistan allegedly results in mob beating well-known Jewish Pakistani More

Turkey Cracks Down on Political Dissent, Again

People daring to engage in political dissent ahead of upcoming general elections could find themselves in jail More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobanii
X
Mahmoud Bali
March 06, 2015 8:43 PM
Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobani

Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

In the village of Nikishino, in eastern Ukraine, recent fighting has brought utter devastation. Ninety percent of the houses are damaged or destroyed after government forces tried and failed to stop rebels advancing on the strategically important town of Debaltseve nearby. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Nikishino.
Video

Video Crime Scenes Re-Created in 3-D Visualization

Police and prosecutors sometimes resort to re-creations of crime scenes in order to better understand the interaction of all participants in complicated cases. A Swiss institute says advanced virtual reality technology can be used for quality re-creations of events at the moment of the crime. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.

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