CAIRO – 27 April 2017: Q&A with Omar Hegazy, first Egyptian swimmer to cross 20km from Jordan’s Al-Aqaba to Egypt’s Taba
“I am perfectly happy now and that’s what matters the most”, that’s how Omar Hegazy in his interview with Egypt Today expressed himself, proving that will and determination could beat any circumstances.
Omar Hegzay is going to be in few days the first Egyptian swimmer to cross 20 kilometers from Jordan’s Al-Aqaba to Egypt’s Taba as he launched this event with #Ichoose slogan. Omar’s great story is not only about achieving a new record; it’s also how he challenged his own limits and managed to be constant source of inspiration to everyone through his endless passion and persistence.
Egyptian champion had an accident a year and half ago that led to one leg’s amputation, and that was the turning point that made him the great (Omar Hegazy) we see now.
He is a 26- year- old man who goes to work during the day and train extensively at night, and that’s how he manages to balance between his work and sports life.
You won’t meet everyday a true source of inspiration and positive energy that would make you rethink about every single detail in life, and yet lead you towards a better understanding for life. We chat with Hegazy about his ambition, life goals, training life, and how he overcomes obstacles he faces.
How did the story start? When did you start swimming?
I started training directly after I had an accident a year and half ago. Honestly, I thought about learning how to swim in the first place just to achieve my goal which is crossing 20 kilometers from Jordan's al-Aqaba to Egypt's Taba. National competitions were never enough for me, I’ve always wanted to achieve new records and my first record will be “Al-Aqaba Taba” crossing.
Who is responsible for your training and how many hours do you train a day?
My trainers are Dr. Sharif Hassan and coach Moustafa Khalil, the swimming legend.
My training ranges from 8 to 10 hours a day.
What are the main reasons you want to achieve this record?
First of all, I love extreme sports as hiking and rock climbing; I mean any sport would bring me closer to death’s feeling. I had to adapt and accept that hiking will be more difficult after the accident but I insisted that sports will always be an important part of my life. That’s why I chose to be the first Egyptian swimmer to cross this distance.
Secondly, I chose Sinai especially in order to support tourism in Egypt so when people and media all over the world starts talking about this achievement, they get to focus on how beautiful Sinai is.
Why would you even think about supporting Egypt’s tourism when young people your age only think about migrating?
Maybe I was thinking the same way when I was younger, but now I am totally happy and comfortable here in Egypt, I love Egypt.
How did your family react when they knew about the crossing goal?
I told my father once I decided to do this. I was very excited though I wasn’t good enough at swimming back then, but he believed in me and he was a real guide.
Some coaches weren’t that interested when they heard about it and they thought that there would be some obstacles.
What are the obstacles you faced while training in the past year and half?
I was suffering from having injuries every month. The training itself was very exhausting , it needs persistence as I had to swim 100 km a day ranging from 8 to 10 hours. I know it’s too much but I had to do this for my goal.
What are the challenges you might face while crossing from al-Aqaba to Taba?
Only nature circumstances as bad weather, facing an eddy or muscle strain.
What have changed about your life since you made that decision? Are there people who are trying to flatter you as you are famous now?
Well, many people have been there for me in my weakest moments and those whom I care about them most, those whom I want to be with me now as they have always been there for me.
I don’t have a problem with those who are flattering me as I understand their intentions well. But the point is I don’t have a problem with anyone, I love every one.
I don’t care too about what might change in my life because I’m happy now enjoying my journey and that’s what matters the most.
Who is your role model?
I love people who seek new achievements and explore new things as Abdellatief Abouheif, first Egyptian to cross the English channel.
In sports world I love Michael Phelps and Roger Federer, not to forget that coach Moustafa Khalil is a great inspirational source for me.
What are your life goals in sports?
I am passionate about my work which is all about treasury and market research. I love my business life but honestly I love sports more, that’s why I am very happy in my life that the bank I work for (Ahli United Bank) is supporting me endlessly.
At the same time, I want to tell my grandchildren interesting stories about my life to be proud of me. I don’t want to be the typical boring grandfather who keeps on telling them advice and tips they don’t want to hear.
Would you be supportive if your children insisted to do extreme sports in the future?
I haven’t experienced fatherhood feeling yet but I think yeah I’ll be supportive and believe in them as my father believed in me. Even my mother, she is supporting me now despite that she was scared when she first heard about my decision to go for this adventure (crossing 20 kilometers from Al-Aqaba to Taba).
As a role model, what would you tell youth your age to inspire them?
First of all, I launched this event with #Ichoose to tell everyone including myself that you are the one who choose how to deal with your life. You should choose and be responsible for your choice, I don’t believe in circumstances. If you want to achieve something and you work for it hardly, you will, don’t put yourselves in the victim zone.
One more thing, you have to focus on only one thing. I’ve made this mistake a lot. I was fond of sports so I was playing three or four sports at the same time which means that I cannot focus on one thing to make achievements in. You have to work hard and focus.