In a star-studded gala dinner in Budapest, Egypt’s pentathlete prodigy Ahmed Al-Gendi was named the world’s best junior athlete for the second year in a row.
The world champion was awarded the title for his brilliant performances and remarkable results in the sport throughout the year that have resulted in seven medals, including four gold.
In the Best Teams Award, Egypt came second best to Russia while Hungary was third.
Al-Gendi beat Mexico’s Emiliano Hernandez and Belarus Ivan Khamtsan for the title. After announcing the shortlists in each category, the International Federation of Modern Pentathlon (UIPM) awards went to a public vote on its official website.
After receiving his award, the 19-year old Al-Gendi talked to Al-Ahram Weekly’s Inas Mazhar about what the award meant to him.
“It means a lot to me, an appreciation for all the hard work and tough competitions I have been through in both the juniors and seniors championships. I am really thrilled to win the award. I am so happy to have maintained my level of performance all year. Winning this award for the second year in a row really feels great. I have been working so hard to stay in the top form and there have been so many achievements. It was an amazing year for me, winning my first senior World Cup medal in the first edition, then a bronze in the World Cup 3, and also winning a silver medal in the Juniors World Championship, so it was really great. I hope the next season would be even better for me to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.”
Al-Gendi described this year as tough “but a challenging one. To compete with the seniors in two World Cups this year was so stimulating for me. I competed in juniors and seniors because I wanted to gain more experience and to qualify for the Olympic Games. And I won. It was wonderful. And I hope to qualify for Tokyo 2020.”
The 2019 best junior pentathlete, Al-Gendi suffers, just like so many of his teammates and peers, from trying to cope between playing and studying. He is a student in the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport.
“Actually, it is very hard to manage between modern pentathlon and my studies. I am suffering, but also my university is helping me to arrange between studying and sports, so I would like to thank them for supporting me.”
Al-Gendi is to represent Egypt in the first edition of the Urban Games. “I am going to participate in the Urban Games next week, also here in Budapest, but it is only the Laser Run discipline, the shooting and running, but with a little bit of difference. The running is 4x100 metres, not laps like in the pentathlon. It’s a new kind of an event and I am glad to participate and represent Egypt. After that, I will finish my season by competing at the Kremlin Cup in Russia and I hope it will be a good end for my season.”
Al-Gendi has no time to enjoy a social life like any other person of his age and that makes him sometimes disappointed. “I don’t have time for anything else other than sports. I rarely do. And that has been like this for years since I began training for the pentathlon. There have been some times of disappointment which drove me to think of quitting sports. When I was 12 years old, I thought of it and I stopped for about 10 days. But after a few days of having fun with my friends and going out non-stop and seeing a lot of things, I stopped thinking about the idea of quitting. Honestly, I discovered that my sport is the most important thing in my life and I can’t give it up. For me sports helps a lot in shaping our personalities and in building up good and strong relationships and friendships.”
When not training or competing, Al-Gendi does nothing but eat and sleep. “That’s it. I do nothing else. I eat a lot, especially my mum’s food and I sleep for long hours as well. So instead of the normal seven hours of sleep during events, I sleep for 10 or 12 hours and it makes me feel good. I always wait for the competition to end so I can eat junk food and sweets.”
Al-Gendi also cherishes his time with his family. “We are four, two boys and two girls, but only my younger brother plays sports. He is not that much into the pentathlon yet, but I am always encouraging him and will push him to compete at the next world juniors championships in Hurghada.
“My parents are the most important in my life and I owe both of them a lot of respect and gratitude. My dad has been so supportive all the way with his guidance and my mother has carried all the burden throughout all those years to ensure that I am always there at the trainings and tournaments. And my father always tells me that my mother is the most important and caring for me and that without her I wouldn’t be where I am now.
“While being strict with me regarding sports, they have also pampered me and have given me some privileges as well, which sometimes makes my brothers and sisters tease me about it. When I sleep, they ensure the house is quiet and that none of the younger ones make noise. My mother always cooks my favourite dishes. But, they are never jealous, always supportive, proud and happy for me.
“In addition to my family, I would like to thank everyone who has supported me: my federation, my club Al-Shams which has been supporting me in the past months, the Egyptian minister of sports, my coaches and teammates, sponsors and fans and most importantly, I would like to thank all those who voted for me.”