Taekwondo practitioner Hedaya Malak is Egypt's highest profile athlete at the Tokyo games, with her being one of only two among the Egyptian delegation to have had a taste of glory following her bronze medal success at Rio 2016.
The other is Alaaeldin Abouelkassem, who won a fencing silver medal in the men's foil event at the 2012 Olympics.
Malak, 28, reached the Olympics in February 2020 after coming on top of a qualification tournament in Rabat, having overcome an ankle injury scare.
"Winning a medal at the Rio Games helped me avoid facing high-profile fighters in the qualifiers," the soft-spoken Malak said.
"I will keep training hard as I target winning another medal in the Tokyo Games."
Malak, world no.15 with 189.80 points, won the bronze medal in Rio in the women's -57kg category after beating Belgium's Raheleh Asemani by the golden kick.
She was among Egypt's three medallist in 2016 alongside weightlifters Sara Ahmed and Mohamed Ihab, both of whom also claimed bronze medals, but Egypt's weightlifting federation was banned over doping cases.
Malak, (1,74m) faces a new challenge in Tokyo after changing her category, having moved up to -67kg in 2018 after seven years of playing in the -57kg category.
"I had to start from zero, to build up my ranking in the new weight category and that took a long time," she told The National.
"I had to play many competitions in -67kg. At the beginning honestly it was tough because I wasn’t used to the weight, people were stronger, taller, everything… the advantage was for them. But at least I was a bit faster.
"Thankfully it went well. I got some points that got me into the top 32, which qualified me for the Grand Prix series. I lost my first three grands prix in -67kg but then after that I won a bronze medal in Rome in 2019, which helped me a lot in the rankings."
The postponement of the 2020 Olympics to this year gave Malak some extra time to recover from a nagging ankle injury, spending 18 months training in Serbia under coach Dragan Jovic to approach the Games in the best possible shape.
She finished fifth at the 2019 World Championships and claimed the bronze in the 2019 Rome Grand Prix and, most recently, the bronze in the 2021 African Championships in Senegal's Dakar.
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