Farida Osman, Egypt’s “golden fish”as she has been dubbed, was ecstatic after a story published on the official website of the Tokyo Olympics lauded her achievements and predicted a future of gold.
“When Farida Osman hits the water at next year’s Olympic Games, she will be a beacon of hope for all women from the Middle East and the whole African continent,” the official website of the Olympics wrote.
The Tokyo Olympics was scrapped this year because of the coronavirus and will instead be held in the summer of next year.
Osman was also featured in a story published by the international swimming federation FINA.
“I am very happy with such an article that also encourages me to do my best in the coming Olympics for my country, my region and my continent. I am training hard and doing my best amid such circumstances of Covid-19,” Osman wrote on her Facebook account.
“I am truly honoured to be a role model and hope to inspire more African and Middle Eastern women to do the same, and even better,” she said.
Osman is viewed by Tokyo officials as the great hope of the African continent and the Middle East region in addition to her homeland Egypt.
She is the fastest swimmer in Africa and the only Egyptian to qualify for both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics. She is an All-Africa Games medalist and set new African records in both the butterfly and freestyle at the 2017 FINA World Championships.
The FINA story listed Osman’s many accomplishments: the first Arab woman to win a gold medal at the Junior World Championships, the first Egyptian to reach the finals at the Senior World Championships, the first Arab woman to reach the semi-finals in swimming in the Olympics and the first Egyptian to win a medal at the World Championships, a bronze.
Osman was chosen the best female athlete from Africa in 2017. A swimming complex is named after her, making her an inspiration for Egyptian women in particular.
In 2019, Osman added a bronze medal for the second time in the World Championships, this one held in South Korea in July.
In Egypt, Osman continues to train at home where, luckily, she has a small pool, but she is raring to go back to the US to continue training.
“I am closely watching how the situation in the US will unfold and when it would be safe to go back to the US to continue my training. So I’m staying in Egypt until then.You train so hard for four full years, focusing on every single detail, only for a situation out of our control to take it all away.” She said that a little more than a week after the coronavirus was discovered in the US, the pool she was training in was closed all together.
Osman remains positive about the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics. Her goal of winning an Olympic medal remains unchanged but she will have to adjust her training schedule for one more year.
“My goal is and will always be to get on the podium. I know this comes with a lot of pressure but I am doing whatever it takes until this goal becomes a reality.”
If she takes to the podium next year, she said she will dedicate it to her country, the Middle East and Africa.
“I am definitely proud to be representing African and Middle Eastern women because of how much talent there is.”
Meanwhile, Hana Gouda, though only 12, is becoming one of the biggest female stars in table tennis in Africa and the Arab world.
The numerous titles collected by Gouda include wins at international tournaments in 2018 in Tunisia and in 2019 at the African Under-21 and Junior Championships in Ghana. She secured a host of titles at the end of the year on the ITTF World Junior Circuit in Portugal. She was also part of the 2018 ITTF Hopes Team and won the 2019 ITTF World Hopes Week & Challenge Girls’ title. She was runner-up in 2017 in the cadet girls’ singles event at the Swedish Junior and Cadet Open and was selected a member of the national squad for the upcoming 2020 World Team Championships in Busan, South Korea.
When she was only nine she won the Egyptian nationals championship, becomingEgypt’s youngest ever national champion in the sport, and has not looked back since.
In January this year, Gouda became the first African player to top the list of Under-15 world rankings for females. Naturally, she is eyeing a medal but at the 2024 Olympics in Paris. “My dream is to win an Olympic medal for Egypt. This is a challenge but I am doing my best to do it.”
“I’m very happy that I will be part of the Egyptian senior team going to Korea. It wasn’t really a surprise as there was a qualification tournament and I came first. I feel very excited and I’m looking forward for the challenge in Korea. I’m very honoured to be in the team alongside Dina Meshref and I will do my best to help team Egypt do well,” Gouda said.
Gouda has the backing of the Olympic Solidarity programme in cooperation with ITTF High Performance & Development.
Gouda tried a number of sports when she was four, including swimming, gymnastics and handball but she said she did not like any of them. She took up table tennis at Ahly Club and when the coach became convinced that she had the talent, the club built a special table tennis table for her to match her height.
Gouda’s mother Radwa Azab has encouraged her every step of the way, giving her advice and support before matches, especially if she is travelling alone without her coach.
In basketball, Soraya Mohamed is considered the best female player in Egypt. Her exploits on court havelifted the Egyptian women’s basketball team to the peak of their performance. Mohamed is relentless, enthusiastic and a fighter.
Due to her passion for the sport, Egypt came close to making the semi-finals at the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket in 2019. She was the top scorer of the tournament with 85 points and was also handed the Fair Play Award.
It is against this backdrop that Mohamed and her teammates believe that the 2021 edition of AfroBasket will present an opportunity for them to get better and climb higher in the rankings of the continent.
Mohamed, together with teammates Hala Al-Shaarawi and Nouralla Abdel-Alim, won the FIBA 3x3 Africa Cup in Uganda, Egypt’s first ever continental title in women’s basketball.
She also led her Ahly Club to third place at the FIBA Africa Women’s Champions Cup in 2019.
“We did a great job at the FIBA Africa Women’s Champions Cup since it was the first year that we participated in this tournament and we did great. We took third place after losing in the last two seconds in the semi-final.”
With over a year and a half to go the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket in 2021, Mohamed and Egypt have promised to come to the party in the best shape they have ever been in.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 4 June, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly