Sunday, January 22, 2017

Egypt - Newcomers on the TrailO map

Egypt made history last summer. For the first time ever an African country took part in the World Trail Orienteering Championships (WTOC), and Ahmed Shabaan - along with Tamer Mehanna, Aytham Ahmed and Mohamed Abdelbaky - was one of ‘the magnificent four’ in the unforgettable Swedish journey. He tells us his story.

Ahmed Abd El Latif Shabaan was born in Shobra El Khima, Kalyobia, Egypt, 23 years ago. For many years he was a successful sportsman in Martial Arts, getting the bronze medal in the Youth World Championships in 2012. Graduating from the Egyptian Military Academy in 2015, Ahmed became part of the Army’s Special Forces and lost a leg whilst on a mission. The accident didn’t prevent him from continuing his sporting career, however, and he started training hard again.
I felt the need to encourage not only myself, but everyone in an identical situation, he says.

How did you discover Trail Orienteering?

Tamer Mehanna, the pioneer of Egyptian Orienteering, has supported me from the
beginning of my sporting career and also after my accident. He asked me to try Orienteering, and especially TrailO. He showed me the basics and started to teach me about maps, control descriptions, symbols, everything. I really liked it and I saw it as a way towards becoming a hero again. I became so interested in participating in WTOC that a new life started for me, really.

An unforgettable week

So Ahmed headed to Strömstad in August, and his first ever TrailO event couldn’t have been more exciting. The memories he keeps from those days are still fresh:
Wow! I was so proud to be part of the Egyptian TrailO Team and so excited to attend a top-level event like WTOC. It was a really fantastic experience and I learned a lot from it. Some of my strongest feelings are about the courses in the forest, something we’re not used to in Egypt. The hardest part was when the kites were really close to each other, making it quite confusing and difficult to choose the right one, Ahmed recalls.

When Ahmed started learning TrailO, he thought it would be easy. Step by step, however, he found how demanding and difficult TrailO can be, requiring hours and hours of training and experience. So not reaching the top placings in the Paralympic class wasn’t unexpected:
I believe that my results were very good, considering it was my first participation ever in an official TrailO event. On the second day, I managed to get 18 right answers out of 24 and I think it was a super result for someone who only had three months of training, he says.

Now he feels able to share his acquired experience, and is inviting other Egyptians to learn more about TrailO.

Towards the Olympics

More motivated than ever, Ahmed Shabaan wants to keep on going on the front line, at a time when Orienteering is growing exponentially in Egypt and TrailO is part of the process.
We are starting to build our TrailO National Team and we will be at the “Egypt International Orienteering Championship 2017” events, which will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh. We hope to have a TrailO event in the Mediterranean Orienteering Championships in Alexandria in February 2018, Ahmed says.

As for himself, the goal is to keep on improving his TrailO skills while looking forward to another great occasion, the next World Trail Orienteering Championships:
We’ll meet in Lithuania, Ahmed assures.

Ahmed’s last words are both an invitation and a wish:
I would like to see all orienteering-lovers come to Egypt to participate and support us in our events, and help Tamer Mehanna and the Egyptian Orienteering Federation in making our wonderful Orienteering into a really global sport, on its way towards the Olympics, he concludes.

Text and photo: Joaquim Margarido

[See the original article at Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]

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