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

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs