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Tuesday, 20 October 2020

2019 sports yearender: Squash is an all-Egyptian affair

In a series of stories, Ahram Online compiles the remarkable sporting events of 2019

Karim Farouk , Sunday 29 Dec 2019
Tarek Momen
Tarek Momen and and his wife Raneem El-Welily
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It was the first time in history that one country monopolizes all world titles in one year. In 2019, Egypt won five World championships for men, women, juniors and teams.

Tarek Momen was crowned the 2019 Professional Squash Association (PSA) Men’s World Champion for the first time after beating New Zealand’s Paul Coll 3-0 in November.

Momen, 31, made history as he and his wife Raneem El-Welily became the first married couple in squash history to be world Champions. El-Welily, who won the title in 2017, lost to compatriot Nour El Sherbini in November.

Prodigy El Sherbini, 24, celebrated her birthday in style as she produced a masterclass by beating El-Welily 3-0 to claim her fourth world title.

"I think because today is my birthday I was making sure not to be sad. I was very relaxed and it took a lot of pressure off thinking about the messages and not focus on the match, so it helped me a lot," she said.

On the juniors level, Mostafa Assal and Hania El-Hammamy won the titles in both genders.

Collectively, Egypt’s men national team crushed second seeds England 2-0 in December to win their fifth World title in Washington, DC.

A look at the PSA and WISPA world rankings in December shows that the Egyptians are playing in a league of their own. 

Ali Farag, Mohamed ElShorbagy, Karim Abdel-Gawad and Tarek Momen are, respectively, leading the men's table while Raneem El Welily, Nour El Sherbini, Nouran Gohar and Nour El-Tayeb are also monopolizing the women's top spots.

Such a dominance has raised a question of how Egypt has made squash their own specialty.

"We had a long term project that started back in 1994. (Former) President Mubarak was an admirer of squash and he helped provide funds and promote the sport in the country," Amir Wagih, a former squash player and Egypt's team coach, told local media. 

"We have now several programs to promote the sport, identify promising players and sponsor them all over the country. Our most recent plan is to sponsor 2000 youth players."

The only blot on 2019 was a decision by former World Champion and World number 1 Ramy Ashour, who is seen as one of the most talented squash players ever, to retire at the age of 31 after an injury-plagued career.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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