By Hadeel Soliman

The gazelle is a lean, strong, graceful and capable being — a great representation of 22-year-old Egyptian squash player Hania El Hammamy.

Though appearing sweet and calm, El Hammamy is merciless on the court. After many triumphs in her career as a junior squash player, she went pro and her talent was quickly recognized on a global scale. She is now third worldwide in the Professional Squash Association Women’s World Rankings, earning her iconic nickname, the gazelle, due to her wide and fast stride.

As if a switch had been flipped, El Hammamy’s gentle exterior quickly faded as we began discussing her squash career. “I am very greedy. Number three isn’t where I belong. I can do better,” she said.

Though not pleased with her ranking, the gazelle still acknowledges her numerous achievements. She notably remembers a match she won at 17 years old, which lifted her spirits and reinforced her self-confidence. “I played against Nicol David, who had previously been number one for nine consecutive years, so no one dared to go near her,” she recalled. “When I won that match, I was very happy. My young age made the victory that much sweeter.”

While climbing the global rankings, El Hammamy also challenges gender norms faced by female athletes. “I’m very aggressive on the court, and sometimes people tell me that my attitude is too much for a woman,” she said.

The comments don’t affect her. At a press conference, El Hammamy handled such challenges and criticism from reporters with grace — as would any confident athlete. When asked if she felt bad for playing against her friend in a match, she replied sternly: “In individual sports, if you think like that, you shouldn’t even be competing. This is our work.”

Determined, hungry for victory, confident and skillful — El Hammamy possesses all these skills that we love to see in athletes. However, as a woman, El Hammamy is frustrated by the difference in treatment she gets from the media and fans alike. “A male player and I may be featured in the same magazine, but he will be the one placed on the front page even though I actually have higher rankings than he does,” she said.

El Hammamy’s message to all young athletes: “You’ll never be at your peak forever. There will be ups and downs, but giving up is not an option.”

Despite the challenges on and off the court, the Egyptian champion remains unfazed and confident because she only has her eyes on one thing: being number one.

Hadeel Soliman is a communication and media arts junior at AUC.

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