Shaimaa Samy Ab D Ellatif is on a double mission - make the cut for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, where Para badminton debuts this August and promote the sport in her country, Egypt.
The Para shuttler who has been the face of wheelchair tennis in the country for the last 10 years, is up for this new challenge.
The 39-year-old from Cairo says she has a lot on her shoulders to develop the sport in the entire region, having picked up the racquet three years back.
She also feels that she has progressed in the game – reaching the top 20 of world rankings in women’s singles WH 1 category having won two mixed doubles medals in her career.
“I am so happy to make a presence in Para badminton events and win medals for Egypt. It is a new sport in Egypt, in fact in Africa, which started only three years ago.
“And I am the first player to represent Egypt in international events. After having played wheelchair tennis and Para athletics, I am now fully focused on Para badminton now and I am trying my best to promote the sport not just in Egypt but in Africa,” said Ellatif, who took a bronze in the mixed doubles WH 1 - WH 2 category, playing alongside India’s Girishkumar Jayanthilal Sharma at the recently-held Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum 3rd Dubai Para Badminton International 2021 in Dubai, UAE.
PARA BADMINTON IN EGYPT
It all started in 2017 when her idol, Egyptian Olympian shuttler Hadia Hosny asked Ellatif to help her promote Para badminton after the latter’s successful promotion of wheelchair tennis in various cities across the country.
Since 2018, Egypt has made progress in increasing the number of Para shuttlers every year and has reached 100 including 25 women disabled players in different classification training in six different clubs in Egypt.
“They are all training hard; aiming to win medals for the country. We went to schools and arranged many workshops in Egypt and Africa to create awareness among the youth on Para badminton and now, many players have shown interest. I have also visited clubs and cities and played exhibition matches to develop interest among various cities and clubs.
“Though it’s a complicated process to get players and sponsors, but I am still continuing the process with dedication. There are many players who come from rural areas, and they need support to play the sport. The process continues and I hope soon we will have many Paralympians,” said Ellatif, who has played wheelchair tennis for 10 years and won several national and international medals and has been the founder of the sport in Egypt.
LOVE FOR PARA ATHLETICS
Ellatif, who trains in Zahour club in Cairo with the able-bodied badminton players with no wheelchair players to train with, also has been competing in discus throw and winning national medals.
“I also love Para athletics and have been competing nationally in discus throw since 2003. But for now, all my focus is on Para badminton. I want to compete in more championships, watch more champions playing in my classification, get some good results in Para badminton players.
“I want to share my experience with the fellow women players in my country and inspire them to play the sport and that how beautiful it is. It will also give them an ambition in their lives and who knows we will have many women players from our country winning international medals,” said Ellatif, who represented Egypt at the Athens 2004 Paralympics in Para athletics.
PARA BADMINTON IN TOKYO 2020
Like most, it will be also a dream come true for Ellatif to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. However, it will be an anxious await until 16 July, when the final qualification list will be announced.
“I am just keeping my fingers crossed," she said. “I have given my best shot and won a couple of medals in the recent past; I hope I stand a good chance to get a wildcard in African continent.
“To play the Paralympics will be amazing. Everyone is waiting for this and have done all the hard work. If I don’t make it, still it will be a great thing for the sport. This will inspire many young players to work hard towards their dreams. Having said that, I will be disappointed a bit, but this will be not the end. I will work harder for the next Paris 2024 Games and World Championships. And yes, I will definitely be watching it on the television.”