Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1317, (27 October - 2 November 2016)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1317, (27 October - 2 November 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Star is selected

Egypt’s former modern pentathlon champion Aya Medani made history after being appointed a member of the IOC Athletes Commission, reports Inas Mazhar

Al-Ahram Weekly

Aya Medani, Egypt’s former modern pentathlon star, was among four athletes appointed by International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach to the Athletes Commission following elections held during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August.

A modern pentathlete and three-time Olympian, Medani first competed in the Olympic Games at the age of 15 and also won several world championships. She has been making headlines in the past two years, even after her retirement.

In 2014, she won the IOC Women and Sport Trophy for Africa for her achievements and contribution to the modern pentathlon in Egypt and the world. She was recognised for her contributions to the development, encouragement and reinforcement of women’s participation in sport. Celebrating how sport is a tool for driving social change and development is at the heart of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.

“I thank everyone who has supported and promoted me in the last months until the elections and even later. It was the first time for me to enter the IOC elections and even though I didn’t win I am so glad to have won the vote of confidence of the IOC president and IOC Athletes Commission chairperson who have appointed me to join the commission,” said Medani.

“My appointment will encourage and enable me to spread my projects for women in sport worldwide, not only in Africa,” she added.

Medani was described by the IOC as a female Egyptian Olympian who is blazing a path for others to follow by using her status in Egypt to promote equal opportunities for women and men in sport and act as a mentor to young athletes as she reiterated her belief in the power of sport to change lives.

Medani took part in three Olympic Games, with the 2012 London Games her last edition. Since then she has become determined to take up a new challenge and dedicate her energy, time and effort help support young female athletes overcome the obstacles of the sport, just like she did during her playing days.

One of Medani’s dreams is to challenge perceptions regarding women in sport in the region’s culture. She believes that this can only be accomplished by sharing her story as a Muslim, Arab and Egyptian sportswoman. She also believes that the point is not only focused on inspiring children to take on sports but convincing parents with the benefits their children would gain from practising physical education.

Today, Medani is “pushing girls, telling them how much sport is important for their life”.

She has contributed to the introduction of biathle, a sub-sport of modern pentathlon, in schools in Egypt, and helped the Egyptian Modern Pentathlon Federation raise money for equipment aimed at promoting women’s and girls’ participation in the sport. She has also engaged with the media and senior government officials responsible for sport and physical education about the importance of promoting equal access to sport for both men and women.

“As a sportive woman, it’s a little bit different for our culture but I think I changed their minds. I changed their thoughts about sportive women,” Medani said.

President of the Egyptian Federation for Modern Pentathlon Sherif Al-Erian has been Medani’s number one supporter. For him she is “an icon for women in sport here, so there is an obligation in my opinion that celebrities in sport have to give back to the children. So her initiative is something very good. That is why we are helping her with it.”

The appointment of Medani and three other Olympians came after the IOC president’s consultations with the chair of the commission Angela Ruggiero. In addition to Medani, the three are taekwondoist Nadin Dawani (JOR), badminton player Saina Nehwal (IND), and basketball player Luis Scola (ARG).

The appointees will join 16 other members, including four athletes who were recently democratically elected by their peers at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, to form the IOC Athletes Commission. While 12 members of the commission are elected by Olympians for a term of eight years, the IOC president may also appoint up to seven members in order to ensure a balance between regions, gender and sports. The commission also includes a representative of the World Olympians Association (WOA) and Intentional Paralympic Committee (IPC).

“On behalf of the IOC Athletes Commission and as its chair, I am very pleased to be welcoming four new members to the commission,” Ruggiero said. “With their diverse backgrounds, knowledge and experiences, the new members will certainly bring valuable contributions to the work of the commission.” Ruggiero, who was elected chair during this summer’s Olympic Games, added: “They are a great addition to an outstanding and very active commission and I am very confident that the athletes around the world will hugely benefit from their commitment and experience.”

Since the beginning of her mandate, Ruggiero has been encouraging athletes to engage closely with the IOC Athletes Commission, and has made it her priority to ensure members are connected with the wider athlete audience either directly or through the Olympic Athletes Hub.

As the voice of athletes within the Olympic movement, the IOC Athletes Commission has a critical and fundamental role in supporting athletes on and off the field of play. Reflecting the Olympic 2020 goal of placing the athletes at the heart of the Olympic movement, the commission works very closely with the IOC and all stakeholders of the Olympic movement. The commission’s members are, for instance, involved in many key IOC activities including the process of evaluating candidate cities seeking to host the Olympic Games, the composition of the sports programme for the Games and the protection of clean sport.

Reflecting the Olympic 2020 goal of placing the athletes at the heart of the Olympic movement and strengthening support for them, the Athletes Commission serves as a link between athletes and the IOC. The commission advises the IOC session, the IOC Executive Board (EB) and the IOC president on matters concerning athletes.

The commission’s mission is to ensure that the viewpoints of athletes remain at the heart of the Olympic movement’s decisions. To that effect, the commission was invited by Bach to submit proposals, recommendations and/or reports to the IOC Executive Board or the IOC session. In the next step, the commission develops toolkits, guidelines and projects to support athletes on and off the field of play. The commission’s members have representation all relevant to IOC commissions.

The IOC Executive Board is subject to the rules of the Olympic Charter.

The Athletes Commission is supported by the IOC Sports Department.

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