INTERVIEW: Hamza enjoys unprecedented success for Egyptian female wrestlers

Ghada Abdel-Kader, Tuesday 21 Jun 2022

Samar Hamza achieved an unprecedented feat in Egyptian wrestling history, climbing up to third in the world ranking of the women's 76kg category. She is truly proud of her success but is still hungry for more.

Samar Hamza
Egypt s freestyle wrestler Samar Hamza. photo: Hamza's Facebook page

 

"This achievement has not happened before in the history of Egyptian wrestling. It is the first time ever a female wrestler wins a medal in World Championships, competes in ranking series tournaments or be ranked among the top four wrestlers in the world rankings," Hamza told Ahram Online.

The United World Wrestling (UWW) set the criteria for its 2022 rankings at the beginning of the year. The new system will start with the ranking points of the last World Wrestling Championships or the last Olympic Games. No other points will be counted from last year.

Hamza clinched the bronze medal at last year's World Championship in Oslo, Norway, after defeating Indian Kiran Bishnoi 2-1 in the women's 76kg category in a repechage match.

"I moved up to third in the UWW rankings after my performance in the World Wrestling Championships last year. I have maintained my position for a long time now and I am working really hard to climb up to the top," the 27-year-old said.  

Hamza also became the first Egyptian wrestler, male or female, to win a World Championship medal since 2006.

Mohamed "Bogy" Abdel-Fattah, who is the current assistant coach of the US national team, won a gold medal in the men's Greco-Roman 84kg category 16 years ago in in Guangzhou, China.

 

Busy schedule

Early this month, Hamza won the silver medal at the Bolat Turlykhanov Cup International World Wrestling in Almaty, Kazakhstan. In a marquee match, she lost 17-6 against Kyrgyzstan's Aiperi Medet Kyzy in the final.

This Cup is the second of the four-ranking series events, which are organised throughout the year.

The events included in the ranking system are the senior World Championship, regional and continental championships, UWW-selected ranking series events and the Olympic Games. The ranking points are compiled after each tournament.

"I amassed points in each tournament as much as I could, either to move upward or secure my place in the UWW rankings. My ranking will increase my chances to reach final rounds and achieve medals," Hamza explained.

Hamza also won the gold medal at the African Wrestling Championships in Morocco's El-Jadida in May, having beaten Nigerian Hannah Rueben 5-1.

A busy schedule awaits her as she will compete in the Mediterranean Games later this month in Algeria's Oran before taking part in the Zouhair Sghaier tournament in Tunisia from 14-17 July.

It is fourth tournament in the UWW ranking series event. The World Championship will then be held from 10-18 September in Belgrade, Serbia.

Olympic dream

"All these championships are part of my preparation plan for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. My main target for this year is to reach the final match in the World Championship," Hamza said.

The Alexandrian-born wrestler, who started practicing at the age of 18 in 2013, has competed in the 76kg category for most of her career, except for a brief period in 2019 when she played in the 68kg category.

She had to return to her normal event after suffering from health problems stemming from a weight loss.

Hamza says she was inspired by Egypt's iconic wrestler Karam Gabr, a two-time Olympic medallist.

"I practiced wrestling by coincidence. I was playing karate when I watched Olympic champion Karam Gaber at the Athens Games in 2004. I became a big fan of him and wrestling," she recalled. 

She is currently following an intensive training program ahead of the upcoming fixtures.

"In the morning, there are fitness exercises such as running, endurance, aerobic, strength and cardio. Other sessions in the evening are for wrestling trainings," Hamza said.

She participated at two Olympic Games, finishing 12th in Rio 2016 and 10th in Tokyo 2020.

Ironically, she was defeated by her role model in Tokyo, Russian Natalia Vorobieva, in the 1/8 finals.

Vorobieva won the gold in London 2012 in the 72kg category and silver in the 69kg category in Rio 2016. She is also a two-time world champion in 2015 and 2019 and a three-time European champion in 2013, 2014 and 2020.

"I played against Vorobieva in the 76kg women's freestyle in Tokyo. She won the game 16-12. My score was so close to hers. This is truly a great result for me. I feel so proud that I played against a two-time Olympic medalist. It is such a great honour and privilege for me. This was a big motivation to look forward and work on myself," Hamza added.

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