By Reem Abulleil
Aya Medany – Modern Pentathlon
Just as four years ago, the young pentathlete carries the weight of a nation’s hopes on her shoulders as she heads to her third Olympics.
At only 23, Medany is considered a veteran in the world of Modern Pentathlon, which combines shooting, fencing, running, swimming and show jumping, to produce what is believed to be the greatest and most versatile athletes on the planet.
Medany, a former multiple-time junior world champion and a silver medalist in the 2008 Senior World Championships, has battled through injuries since Beijing and even though she is now at peak condition in the run up to the London games, controversy has plagued the athlete since she decided to wear the hijab at the end of Beijing 2008.
While it does give her a disadvantage when running, since she is wearing heavier clothes than her opponents, the real problem lies in the swimming part of her competition. The UIPM – modern pentathlon’s world governing body – doesn’t allow her to compete wearing a swimsuit that covers her arms and body, which puts her in a position where she has to choose between her faith and her sport. She finally has come to terms with the fact that it’s a sacrifice she has to make to represent her country.
Medany, placed 12th in this year’s World Championships in Italy and with her best showing in 2012 where she won fourth-place in the Brazil World Cup, her lead-up to the Games has not been as strong as prior to Beijing but Medany’s experience is the key weapon in her arsenal, and if things fall into place for her, she is a force to be reckoned with.
Mohamed Abdelfattah “Boogy” – Greco-Roman Wrestling 96kg
As a former world champion in Greco-Roman Wrestling (he won in Guangzhou in 2006), Boogy has always been a strong medal contender for Egypt.
He qualified to London 2012 courtesy of his fifth-place finish in last year’s World Championships in Turkey, and it will be his third appearance at the Games following Sydney and Athens as he missed Beijing through injury.
A disqualification in Athens 2004 along with a knee injury have so far stood between him and his Olympic dream but Boogy is determined that 2012 is going to be his year and he had a lengthy preparation at a camp in Colorado, USA to gear up for London.
He moved up a class to the 96kg when he returned from injury in 2010, winning the Mediterranean Games and African championships in the class that year. Last year, he won the silver medal in the Golden Grand Prix in Baku.
“For the past 10 years, I’ve been in search of an Olympic medal but I’ve been very unlucky. If I win the gold medal I will finally settle down and get married because so far my hectic life traveling between competitions has impeded my social life.”
This is set to be the 34 year old’s final Olympics and he is tipped by NOC officials as the most “mentally ready” individual in the Egyptian delegation to give a medal-winning performance.
Hesham Mesbah – Judo 90kg
He is the sole Egyptian medalist from the last Olympic Games, winning the bronze in the 90kg class. It was Egypt’s first judo medal in 24 years and this year’s flag-bearer is looking to get the gold this time around.
He says he was disappointed with the way his medal-winning appearance in Beijing was received as he expected more from sporting officials in the country, especially as it was his medal that allowed Egypt to save face, avoiding leaving China without a single medal. Still, Mesbah is not discouraged by the lack of attention and his quest for gold continues.
Karam Gaber – Greco-Roman Wrestling 84kg
As Boogy moved up a class in wrestling, Athens 2004 gold medalist Karam Gaber has moved down one, to 84kg which could possibly give the muscular Egyptian hero an edge. He put in a massive effort to lose the 12 kilos but it’s a strategic move to place him amongst wrestlers he believes he can beat.
He was the flag-bearer in Beijing’s opening ceremony but he finished a disappointing 13th failing to make the quarter-finals.
Since then he’s lost his way between lack of motivation and getting himself into some scandals. He also dabbled briefly with Mixed Martial Arts, but he’s back with purpose after considering retirement, hoping to prove his critics, who claim he is a troublemaker, wrong. He took the gold in the Arab Games last December in Doha and has a strong period preparation behind him in Poland ahead of the Olympics.
Tamer Bayoumi -Taekwondo 58kg
Bayoumi is another athlete in the field this year who knows what it’s like to win an Olympic medal. The 30 year old from Alexandria took a bronze in Athens eight years ago in the 58kg class, and also placed third in the 2007 World Championships.
This year he won the African Olympic Qualifying Championships and got the Bronze in the A-Class Dutch Open in Eindhoven.
Of the 59 registered fights he contested, he has won an impressive 40.