Monday,24 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1140, 21 - 27 March 2013
Monday,24 September, 2018
Issue 1140, 21 - 27 March 2013

Ahram Weekly

Calls it a day

Egypt’s modern pentathlon champion
Aya Medani announces her shock retirement,
reports Ghada Abdel-Kader

Al-Ahram Weekly

Egypt’s champion Aya Medani announced her retirement from the modern pentathlon. After 12 years of playing at the top, the 24-year-old set local, Arab and African records that will be hard to beat.
“I took this decision after talking it over with my parents. Then I presented my resignation to the federation,” said Medani. A top flight pentathlete can play until much older than 24.
Medani qualified for three Olympics -- Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
In Athens she was 15, the youngest competitor in the Egyptian delegation and in the pentathlon competition. She finished in 28th place with a total of 4,852 points: 1,108 in shooting, 720 in fencing, 1,224 in swimming, 976 in riding and 824 in running. In Beijing, Medani improved remarkably, finishing in eighth place with 5,544 points. It was the best Egyptian performance ever in pentathlon Olympic history by either a male or female. She scored 1,144 in shooting, 928 in fencing, 1,292 in swimming, 1,004 in riding and 1,176 in running. Medani could have done even better but had a problem with the horse assigned to her. She described the animal as “unwieldy”.
Medani qualified for London after taking first place in the African Modern Pentathlon Championship held in Egypt in July 2011. In London, she regressed, finishing in 16th place with 5,136 points. Her scores: 880 in fencing, 1,136 in swimming, 1,124 in riding and 1,996 combined event (running and shooting).
Despite not having won an Olympic medal, Medani remained one of Egypt’s most high-profile athletes, not just for her achievements. She was only woman pentathlete wearing the hijab, starting in 2008.
In London 2012, she competed with her body covered in total, in addition to wearing the hijab. The attire was fine for the running, horse jumping, pistol shooting and fencing events. The big problem was swimming, for she had to conform to Olympic guidelines for swimming.
According to the International Swimming Federation (FINA) regulations of July 2009 regarding swimwear used in Olympic Games and FINA events, the competitor must wear only one swimsuit in one or two pieces. Women’s suit must not cover the shoulders, necks, arms and legs below the knees.
Medani gave Al-Ahram Weekly four reasons for retiring. “First was a pelvic injury in 2011. I didn’t travel abroad for treatment. I was treated by the federation’s doctor but it got worse. I continued treatment, paying for it myself, with physiotherapist Alaa Shaker.
“The second reason was the hijab. FNA banned full-body swimsuits that cover the entire body. And the pentathlon takes its swimming rules from FNA.
“The third reason was that I was supposed to have a foreign coach in 2011 but that didn’t happen.
“Lastly, there is a psychological factor. Unfortunately, here in Egypt we don’t pay much attention to athletes or sports in general. Even when athletes compete abroad they travel without their coach or sport therapist.”
President of the Egyptian Modern Pentathlon Federation (EMP) Sherif El-Arian said, “We respect her desire to retire. Medani will always remain valuable for the modern pentathlon in Egypt. EMP board of directors will talk with Minister of Sport Al-Amari Farouk to hold a farewell party in Medani’s honour.”

Career highlights

Aya Medani joined the Egyptian team in 2001. The five-time African champion made her debut in 2002 when she came second in the Youth World Championship in Budapest, Hungary.
One year later, she confirmed her talent by winning the gold medal at the Youth World Championship in Mexico, and retained the gold medal at the 2004 Youth World Championship in Bulgaria.
In 2005, she came second in the junior world Championship in Moscow, and in the youth World Championship in Pilsen, the Czech Republic.
In the 2006, she won gold medals in the World Cup #2 in Milfield, United Kingdom, in the Junior World Championship in Shanghai, China, in the Youth World Championship in Popoli-Sulmona, Italy and in the World Cup #5 in Cairo. She took a bronze medal in the USA Open Championships in Colorado.
In 2007, she snatched gold medals in the African Championship in Cairo, and in the World Cup Final in Beijing, China. She won a bronze medal in the World Cup #2 in Cairo.
In 2008, she won gold medals in the World Cup #5 in Kladno, the Czech Republic and in the Junior World Championships in Cairo. She snatched silver medals in the Senior World Championship in Budapest, Hungary and in the World Cup #3, in Millfield, United Kingdom.
In 2009, she took gold medals in the World Cup #1 in Mexico City, in the World Cup #4 in Rome, Italy and in the Junior World Championships (individual) in Chinese Taipei. She took silver medals in the Junior World Championships (Team relay) in Chinese Taipei and in the World Cup #2 in Cairo.
In 2010, she won a bronze medal in the World Cup #2 in Cairo, Egypt. In 2011, she took gold in the World Cup #3 in Budapest, Hungary. In 2012, she came in fourth place in the World Cup#2 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and 12th place in the Senior World Championships in Italy.
Medani will not be leaving sports altogether. Said she would continue to fence. “I am a good fencer and got impressive results. I will join the fencing team after I finish my treatment.”
“She is a very talented fencer,” said Al-Arian. “She is going to be one of the top stars in the sport.”
Medani currently works as a teaching assistant in the logistics department at the Arab Academy for Science and Technology and Maritime Transport.
She is not the only champion in her family: her father, Mahmoud Medani, was a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which won the Nobel Prize 2007 alongside Al Gore. Gore was the 45th vice-president of the United States from 1993-2001, under President Bill Clinton.


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