Aya Medany FEMALE EGYPTIAN OLYMPIAN a trail blazer for OTHER africans
· Retired modern Pentathlete Aya Medany is using her status in Egypt to promote equal opportunities for women and men in sport and act as a mentor to young athletes. A few days ahead of the international day of sport for development and peace on 6 April, the winner of the 2014 IOC women and sport trophy for Africa has reiterated her belief in the power of sport to change lives.
After competing at her third edition of the Olympic Games in London 2012, Medany determined that the moment had come to focus her time and energy on a new challenge – one that would still keep her close to sport. “I have [had] a lot of obstacles during my career in sport, and I was dreaming that I could help other young athletes to remove those obstacles,” she said. Medany recognised that, by sharing her story as a Muslim, Arab and Egyptian sportswoman, she could challenge perceptions regarding women in sport in her culture. She found she could not only inspire children to practise sport, but also help parents realise the benefits of physical education for their children.Today, Medany is “pushing girls, telling them how much sport is important for their life”. She has contributed to the introduction of biathle in school around her country 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,” Medany said. Sharif Elerian, President of the Egyptian Federation for Modern Pentathlon, described Medany as “an icon for women in sport here in Egypt, so there is an obligation in my opinion that celebrities in sport, they have to give back to the children. So her initiative is something very good. That is why we are helping her with it.” Elerian is not the only one to laud her as a role model empowering the next generation of young athletes. Twelve-year-old Maria Muhammed also credits Medany for inspiring her to pursue modern pentathlon – and for being a woman in sport: “She fights for what she loves and does it no matter what. She stands up for women in sport. She’s very courageous.”
A mentor and inspiration to many women and girls in her country and Africa as a whole, Medany 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.
Medany retired from active sport following the 2012 Summer Olympics due to the ban on full-body swimsuits imposed by the swimming federation FINA, which Pentathlon takes its swimming rules from. Medany advocated for an outfit conforming to the Muslim faith, while the swimming requirements state that outfits "shall not cover the neck, extend past the shoulder, nor extend below the knee".
Her father Mahmoud Medany was a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 alongside Al Gore She works as a teacher assisting at the Arab Academy for Science and Technology and Maritime Transport.