In a country where support for female athletes is scarce, these Egyptian power women racked up not only bronze medals, but also worldwide attention as they left a powerful mark at the Rio Olympics.
They were a minority in the 122-strong Egyptian delegation, yet they brought two of the three bronze medals home. Fierce, relentless, and resilient, Egypt’s female heroines shone bright at the 2016 Rio Olympics, not only racking up medals but also instigating debate, defying stereotypes, and making a mark on the athletic global stage.
From 15-year-old fencing powergirl Hamza Mohamed - who was Egypt’s youngest Olympian - to absolute champions Hedaya Wahba and Sara Samir, who brought home two bronze Olympic medals, Egypt’s female athletes brought home immense doses of inspiration. From archery masters to taekwondo practitioners to divers, these are the 36 women that made Egyptians proud in Rio 2016.
1. Hedaya Malak Wahba, Taekwondo
The 23-year-old brought home the bronze medal in the Taekwondo female 57kg category, becoming the first Egyptian woman to win a medal in taekwondo. She was also the the flag bearer at Rio's closing ceremony.
2. Sara Ahmed, Weightlifting
Impressively young and strong, 18-year-old Sara Ahmed smashed records as the first Arab woman to ever win the weightlifting bronze medal. Ahmed, who had already won a gold medal at the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics, took home the bronze one this year in the women's 69 kg weight class, having lifted 112 kg in the snatch and 143 kg in the clean and jerk.
3-4. Doaa Elghobashy and Nada Meawad, Volleyball
Although they ranked 19th, Egypt's female beach volleyball team made waves across the world after this picture went viral, a portrayal of diversity and unity in a worldwide context where prejudices against hijab-wearing woman abound. The team made history, not only as the first Egyptian team to ever compete at beach volleyball, but also as they sparked debate on the Olympic uniform codes and the global focus put on women's bodies instead of their actual prowess.
5-14. Egypt's Synchronised Swimming team
These athletes’ performance and attire were so remarkable that they made waves all the way to Australia. Comprised of Jomana Elmaghrabi, 21; Leila Abdelmoez, 19; Nada Saafan, 18; Nariman Aly, 17; Salma Negmeldin, 20; Nehal Saafan, 19; Nour Elayoubi, 19; Samia Ahmed, 20, and Dara Hassanien, 20 (the latter two of which also competed as a duet), the team earned the 7th spot in the Technical Routine as well as 7th place in the Freestyle Routine. Duet queens Ahmed and Hassanien were ranked 23rd.
But the impressive team, whose mothers visited CairoScene for an account of their sacrifice and efforts, also made global headlines as they were featured by Vogue Australia as the 9th best costume at the Olympics.
15. Farida Osman, Swimming
The swimmer, a favourite among the Egyptian public, got the nation excited when she reached semi-finals and later achieved 11th place at Women's 100m Butterfly and 18th place at Women's 50m Freestyle.
16. Seham El Sawalhy, Taekwondo
The 24-year-old taekwondo practitioner, who has 34 tournaments under her belt, reached the round of 16 of Women 67 kg.
17. Reem Mohamed Hussein Elsayed Kassem, Marathon Swimming
A student of architectural engineering at The American University in Cairo (AUC), the 20-year-old is the first Egyptian and Arab female to qualify for the Olympics in the 10k open swim event.
18. Enas Mostafa, Wrestling
Having reached the quarterfinals in Women's Freestyle 69 kg, where she beat Brazilian Gilda Maria de Oliveira, the 27-year-old wrestler racked up the 5th position.
19. Shaimaa Haridy, Weightlifting
The 25-year-old weightlifter, who previously won several awards at the African and Mediterranean Games, reached 4th place in Women's over 75 kg.
20. Maha Amer, Diving
One of the youngest athletes to complete at this year’s Olympics, the diver earned herself the 28th place in the Women's 3m Springboard. The 17-year-old athlete, who began swimming at the age of eight, told Enigma magazine that she was hopeful for the Olympics, as she felt “that Egypt is crying out for something to cheer for.”
21. Maha Abdel Salam, Diving
The Alexandrian gymnast, diver, and ballet dancer had already come in 6th place in the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, in 2014. The 18-year-old, who has been competing internationally since 2010, came home from Rio with the 24th position in diving Women's 10m Platform.
22. Nadia Negm, Rowing
The young rower, who recently turned 18 and is among the youngest in the competition, reached the Olympic quarter finals and secured herself the the 6th place in Women's Single Sculls (Final D).
23. Sherine Elzeiny, Gymnastics
The 25-year-old gymnast participated at several Olympic events, ranking 40th in Women's Uneven Bars, 69th in Women's Floor Exercise, 66th in Women's Beam, and 39th in Women's Individual All-around.
24. Shimaa Hashad, Shooting
Reaching 27th place in the Shooting 10m Air Rifle Women category, the 35-year-old Egyptian woman raised eyebrows nationwide.
52. Afaf Elhodhod, Shooting
The 19-year-old participated in both the Shooting 25m Pistol category and the Shooting 10m Air Pistol Women, where she earned herself 5th place.
26. Menatalla Karim, Canoe Sprint
The 20-year-old athlete ranked 28th in the Canoe Sprint Women's Kayak Single 200m.
27-29. Nadeen El-Dawlatly, Dina Meshref, and Yousra Helmy, Table Tennis
El-Dawlatly, who plays for Cairo's Al Ahly club, has been making waves across international tournaments and had already participated at the 2012 London Olympics. This year in Rio, the the 23-year-old powergirl (whose parents were both African table tennis champions) participated in both the Singles and Team series, like Dina Meshref who, at 22, also has the 2012 Summer Olympics under her belt. Yousra Helmy, who participated in the Team series, has previously participated in international tournaments as well, and is the daughter of two former Olympians as well.
30-31. Noura Mohamed and Nada Hafez, Fencing
Both 18 years old, the athletes left their mark in the fencing events; Mohamed in Round of 64 at Fencing Women's Sabre Individual, while Hafez in Round of 32 of Fencing Women's Foil Individual.
32. Samar Amer Ibrahim Hamza, Wrestling
Hamza is already a gold medallist, winner of the 2016 African Championship. At 21, Hamza participated in the Qualifications of Women's Freestyle 75 kg wrestling.
33. Fatma El-Sharnouby, Athletics
The 18-year-old athlete earned the 63rd spot at Athletic Women's 800m Run.
34. Haydy Morsy, Modern Pentathlon
You might be wondering what exactly is a modern pentathlon? The discipline combines five different events: fencing, 200m freestyle swimming, show jumping, and a final event that includes pistol shooting and a 3200m cross-country run. This 16-year-old athlete racking up the 32nd place in fencing, 36th (last) place in swimming, 31st place in show jumping, the 28th place in run and shoot, and the 36th (last) place overall (she was eliminated at riding).
35. Hadir Mekhimar, Shooting
The champion sport shooter, who made her first Olympic team for Egypt as a 16-year-old, had already shared a top prize with Hungary's István Péni in the mixed international rifle team at the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics. In Rio, she ranked 49th at Shooting 10m Air Rifle Women.
36. Reem Mansour, Archery
The recurve archer reached the 56th place in Women's Individual at 22 years old.
37. Ebtissam Ahmed, Cycling
The cyclist, one of Egypt's youngest participants at 19 years old, arrived 27th (last) at Women's Cycling Sprint.