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

    Leaving Scalia Replacement to 2017 Would Mean Unusually Long Vacancy

    History of high court shows Obama not in unique situation during final year of presidency

    US Fact Checkers Debunk Some Republican Presidential Candidate Claims 

    Slim evidence for several claims made by Republican presidential candidates at their last debate ahead of next Saturday's key nominating election in South Carolina

    Uganda Presidential Debate a Small Victory for Democracy

    In homes and bars across country, Ugandans were fixated on their screens as eight political candidates running for president took part in national debate

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Ugandai
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    February 12, 2016 9:29 PM
    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video Refugees in Kenya Vie to Compete in Rio Olympics

    In Kenya, refugees from other African nations are training at a special camp and competing for a limited number of slots in this year's Rio Olympics under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Ngong, this is a first in Olympic history.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.