INTERVIEW: Egyptian diver Ishak 'flying high' after reaching final in Tokyo

Ghada Abdel-Kader, Wednesday 18 Aug 2021

Ahram Online speaks to Egyptian diver Mohab Ishak after he finished 11th in the men's 3m springboard final in Tokyo for Egypt's best position in 73 years

Mohab Ishak
Mohab Ishak of Egypt competes in men s diving 3m springboard final at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. AP

Diver Mohab Ishak was not one of Egypt's Olympic medalists in Tokyo, but he defied expectations to make a name for himself after achieving the country's best position in 73 years.

Ishak finished 11th in the men's 3m Springboard final after scoring 393.15 points. Kamal Ali Hassan was the last Egyptian diver to reach the final in the 1948 Olympic Games in London, where he finished seventh.

"I was flying high. I was very happy and surprised. I was in a state of disbelief until the moment I played the final," he said with a smile.

"I was hoping to perform well and achieve a good result at the Olympics. Thanks God, I made it," he told Ahram Online in an interview.

Ishak reached the final after finishing 11th in the semis with 408.85 points. Only the top 12 divers reach the final.

He said there were signs he would go that far in Tokyo, given his fine run before the Olympics got underway.  

"Thanks God, my results in the 3m springboard have been good for some time. My results kept improving until I came close to matching those of the world champions," Ishak added.

"The hard work of my coaches and the support of my family were key in helping me reach the final. It was such a big honor."

Ishak did not enjoy similar success in another event after stepping in late to replace fellow Egyptian Youssef Amr in the men's 10m platform diving. He finished 23th with 318.55 points in the event's preliminary round.

"Unfortunately, due to certain circumstances, Amr was unable to participate. I was chosen to compete instead of him. I did not have enough time to get prepared," he said.

"I have been mainly focusing on the 3m springboard discipline for more than a year and a half."

Ishak's coach was full of praise of him, saying the 24-year-old had punched above his weight because he did not have sufficient time to prepare for the Olympics.

"Frankly speaking, there was no specific training programme for Ishak Only 15 days before the Olympics, he stayed in hotel in 6th of October city (on the outskirts of Cairo) to prepare for the Games," said Helmy Soliman, Ishak’s Diving Coach at Heliopolis Sporting Club

"The lack of competition in international championships and the lack of training camps abroad are the reasons why he had not won an Olympic medal. Athletes need to interact with other athletes, gain more experience, enhance their performances and improve their skills.   

"Ishak was under big stress. In Tokyo, he competed in three competitions in only 48 hours," Soliman added, saying he hopes Ishak would fare better at the 2024 Paris Games if better prepared.

Egypt's only Olympic medal in diving dates back to the Amsterdam Olympic Games in 1928 when Farid Simaika won silver in the 10m platform event and bronze in the 3m springboard discipline.

Ishak's career

Ishak, who has a bachelor degree from the faculty of tourism and hotels Management at Cairo's Helwan University, started practicing diving at the age of nine at the popular Zamalek club.

He then joined the ranks of Heliopolis Sporting Club just before the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where he came 28th with 305.50 points in the preliminaries of the men's 10m platform diving event

Ishak has been the national champion for over 10 years, winning up to six gold medals in domestic competitions. He says that while he also competes in the 10m platform, the 3m springboard remains his preferred discipline.

His role model in diving was British Jack Laugher, a springboard specialist who won a gold medal in the men's synchronized 3m springboard event and silver in the men's individual 3m springboard at Rio 2016.

"Laugher is a great athlete. He is the only diver who was so close to beating the Chinese, who are giants in this game," Ishak said.

Ishak's remarkable results include winning a gold medal in the men's 3m springboard and a bronze in the men’s 10m platform at the 2019 FINA Diving Grand Prix in Egypt.

He also finished 4th in men's 3m springboard at the 2019 FINA diving Grand prix in the United States.

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