Female wrestler is a warrior

Abeer Anwar , Tuesday 20 Sep 2022

For the first time, an Egyptian woman reached the final of the Wrestling World Championship. Abeer Anwar talks to the champion

Hamza
Hamza

Although she did not win the gold medal, Samar Hamza wrote a new page in Egyptian history by winning silver in the Wrestling World Championship held in Serbia last week, becoming the first Egyptian woman to reach the final.

In an exclusive interview with Al-Ahram Weekly, Hamza, 27, said that despite the odds, she expected the silver medal in the +76kg weight category. “Although everyone who talks to me is surprised by the medal and the achievement, I wasn’t. I was expecting it. I was even expecting the gold medal as I had prepared very well for this championship. I was challenging everyone who criticised me and even challenging myself. I did it last year when I took the bronze medal in the 2021 Ivan Yariguin and City of Sassari World Championship. It was the first time in Egyptian history for a woman to win a medal in the World Championship. So here comes this year to ensure that I am capable of challenging myself and winning the silver this time. I assure you that next time it will be the gold.”

Hamza said she refused to travel abroad to enter training camps but instead used the money to participate in as many championships as possible as, she added, this helped her raise her rank to third in the world.

In her debut at the World Championship, Hamza overcame Canada’s Renay Distasio in the quarter-finals, beating her 3-0. In the semis, she defeated Austria’s Martina Luenz 3-1, only to meet the difficult and experienced Estonian Epp Mae in the semis. But she won that as well 3-1 before meeting Turkey’s Yasemin Adar in the final. “It wasn’t an easy match as Adar is the world champion twice and came third in the Tokyo Olympics. I did my best but I wasn’t lucky enough to win.”

After winning the silver medal, the World Wrestling Union praised Hamza for her performance, and called her a legend.

Hamza started her life as a karate player but dropped it as she was not interested in the kata discipline. She joined wrestling by luck as she recounts. “I used to go to the club with my neighbour and best friend who used to wrestle. One day, Captain Tolba, my coach now, was visiting the club to look for wrestlers, males and females. He saw me standing by my friend’s side. He asked me to show him my muscles, my legs, my fist and asked me to perform some moves. This was in 2013 when he chose me to start training for wrestling. I was 18 at the time. I was afraid at first as I was older than the others. My friend started at the age of seven but I was interested in the sport and the journey started.”

Hamza is from Alexandria and trains at the Military School. She has no sponsor and refused to continue with one she had. “I have no sponsor now as I hate to be related to a certain company or a certain place or to abide by certain rules. This is why I like to conduct all my training camps in Egypt and to travel only for competitions. I feel free in Alexandria.”

After the Tokyo Olympics Hamza fell into despair and decided to quit everything and everyone. “I was very well prepared and in all the competitions I participated in before the Olympics I won the silver and bronze medals so when I came in 12th place in Tokyo I was depressed and frustrated. I decided to quit but my parents and my coach kept pushing me to participate in the World Championship that was only one month ahead of the Olympics. The Egyptian Wrestling Federation refused to send me to the World Championship after I failed in the Olympics so I paid for my trip and challenged myself to travel and participate and win the bronze medal, to the surprise of everyone. I was very excited and happy with what I did.”

As for her next step, Hamza will rest a bit and start preparing for Paris 2024. “I am planning to win an Olympic medal this time and write a new chapter in my history and my country’s as well.”

Hamza adores Alexandria to the extent that she trains by the Mediterranean Sea, scaling the Corniche walls and blocking the waves as training. “I love Alex. And I refuse to leave it for any closed or training camp. I am like a fish that can’t leave the water. Alex and my coach Tolba are everything. He is my father, mother, coach, friend, physician, psychiatrist and everything. I owe him all my success. Also the national team’s doctor, Dr Magdi Al-Sabagh, monitors all my medications for drug tests I undergo regularly.”

Hamza won the Africa and Oceania qualifier which sent her to her second Olympic Games. She competed at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games where she finished in 16th place. She entered the African Championships on four occasions, claiming four golds.

   *A version of this article appears in print in the 22 September, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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