INTERVIEW: Egypt’s wrestler Metwally says he pushed past his pain to pursue his dream in Tokyo

Ghada Abdel-Kader, Thursday 26 Aug 2021

Metwally opens his heart and speaks to Ahram Online about his struggle with his knee injury and how he managed to compete till the last breath

Mohamed Metwally
Egyptian wrestler Mohamed Metwally.

Egyptian Greco-Roman wrestler Mohamed Metwally caught the eyes of Egyptians with his impressive performance at the Tokyo Olympic Games and captured their hearts following his heartbreaking defeat in the 87kg bronze medal contest and apology to his supporters.

“I was hoping to win a medal. Unfortunately, I suffered an unbearable injury in my knee. I was playing with one leg,” he said, thanking his supporters for their backing throughout his journey.

The 26-year-old wrestler won by technical superiority 9-1 against 2021 European silver medalist Kiryl Maskevich of Belarus in the Round of 16 and then made a demonstration of power against Cuban Daniel Gregorich by pinning him to the mat in just one round in the quarter final.

“We trained together in Bulgaria’s training camp. I was familiar with his tactics. I ended the match in 40 seconds with a shoulder touch and a pin,” he added.

However, Metwally who hadn’t fully recovered from a knee injury, was badly hurt during the semis, leading to a 9-2 loss against 2019 world silver medalist Viktor Lorincz of Hungary.

“I got injured during a training camp in Hungary before the Olympics. I was practicing against Lorincz, and he was the reason I sustained the injury,” Metwally revealed. 

“He knew about my injury and took advantage of it. I protested for foul play during the game but officials declined it. I lost the game in the last 40 seconds,” he added.

He then went into the bronze medal contest with a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament of his knee, refusing to withdraw and insisting on struggling with his pain.

His dedication was not rewarded, however, as he was beaten 8-1 by German wrestler Denis Maksymilian Kudla, who won the bronze in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.

“This match was the last match of the day. I was tired, exhausted, and suffering from severe pain in my knee.”

Preparation and Qualification

Metwally booked a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics after winning the gold in the 2021 African and Oceania Wrestling Olympic Qualification Tournament last April in Tunisia.

“This was my first ever Olympics,” he said.

“Our preparation was troubled due to problems inside the federation. We complained about the lack of preparation, but some members were supportive while others just ignored our demands,”

“Egyptian wrestlers had only two training camps before the Olympics, one in Bulgaria and the other in Hungary. They lasted for about 10 to 15 days,” he said.

After qualifying for the Olympics, Metwally and his colleague Haytham Fahmy continued their training with technical directors Ashraf Hafez and Amr Ibrahim.

Knee injury

Metwally was not willing to skip the Tokyo Games even with a knee injury, especially after failing to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

“It was a dream of mine to compete in the Olympics. It finally became true; it was a matter of life and death for me. Nothing would stop me from winning a medal,” he added.

“After all I had gone through, I came so close to fulfilling my dream. It was very hard to walk away because of my injury,” he said.

Metwally competed in Tokyo against the advice of his medical team.

Scans and tests before the game revealed that his right knee was completely out of commission.

“I made the decision to not quit, whatever the circumstances.”

“I knew there would be no easy games. I was playing among the best wrestlers in the world, after all,” he said.

After the tournament, he posted on his socials the report and scans showing the tear in his ligament.

He is set to have surgery in the upcoming days after consulting with his doctor.

“He is still deciding if I should do it in Egypt or Germany,” he said.

Early years

Metwally started practicing wrestling in 2004 at the Olympic Club in Alexandria under the tutelage of his coach, Kamal Abdou.

“He has been my coach since the early beginning,” he said.

He claimed a bronze medal at the 2016 African Wrestling Championships in Alexandria and a gold medal at the 2017 African wrestling championships in Morocco. 

He also won the gold medal at the 2019 African Wrestling Championships in Tunisia and a bronze medal at the 2019 African Games in Morocco.

Additionally, he won the silver medal in the Greco-Roman 87kg wrestling category at the 2020 African Wrestling Championships in Algeria.

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