Egyptian star aims for world title on 10th competition
By HOWARD HARDING in Paris
After making her championship debut as a 13-year-old in 1998, Egypt’s Omneya Abdel Kawy establishes a new world record at the 2016 WSF Women’s World Team Squash Championship this week in Paris by representing her country for a 10th successive time.
With 47 appearances for Egypt in the biennial championship to date, world No.8 Abdel Kawy and her team-mates are seeded to reclaim the world title they won both in 2008 in Egypt and 2012 in Nimes, France.
Just three months into her teenage years, Abdel Kawy made an impressive start to her international senior career at the 1998 championship in Stuttgart, Germany – winning all her four matches and helping Egypt to a first ever top eight finish. In a remarkable junior career, the Cairo youngster won six successive British Junior Open titles before being crowned World Junior Champion in August 2003.
Now 31, the former world No.4 remains unbeaten in the world team championship since December 2010.
In recognition of her unique achievement, Abdel Kawy received a special trophy from World Squash Federation President Jacques Fontaine, supported by her Egyptian team-mates (see above).
“We grew up together at the same club in Maadi,” recalled Egyptian team coach Amr Shabana, the former world number one and four-time world champion (also pictured above). “The first time I saw her, she was just five years old – hitting amazing shots, far exceeding someone of her age.
“She hit it hard, cross court and deep – and continued that throughout her career. She is an amazing player – players like her don’t come around that often!”
Abdel Kawy was overwhelmed to receive her trophy: “It’s always an honour to play for your country – and a privilege to play for Egypt.
“Team events are so special – and we don’t have events like the Commonwealth or Asian Games, so this event is the only one we play as a team. And, unlike when you play in individual events, when you play in a team event, with your team-mates supporting you, you want to give 150%. I really love it.
“I remember that first time in Germany in 1998. I had no pressure and no coaches telling me I had to win. Which is probably why I did win all my matches – I guess I was fearless in those days.”
Last month, Abdel Kawy lost the first Tour match she played just four weeks after marrying Ahmed Said on the 1st October. “I trained really hard for the next three weeks as I really wanted to make the Egyptian team here.
“I am so surprised to discover that I am the only person that has played in ten world team championships – and I am honoured to receive this acknowledgement.”
Hosted by the Fédération Française de Squash, the 20th edition of the WSF World Team Championship is taking place in France for the second time since 2012.
In his first duty as the newly-elected President of the World Squash Federation at the Opening Ceremony for the 2016 WSF Women’s World Team Squash Championship, Frenchman Jacques Fontaine welcomed players and officials to the event which is being held in the French capital Paris for the first time.
It was as President of the Fédération Française de Squash that Fontaine attracted the event to France for the second time in four years.
It will take place at Jeu De Paume and St Cloud Squash clubs, with final stages being held on an all-glass court at the Palais Des Sports Robert Charpentier in Issy-les-Moulineaux.
At the Opening Ceremony at Palais Des Sports, Fontaine addressed players representing 17 nations, including 17 from the world top 20, telling them that “women will play a leading part in our future bid for participation in the Olympic Games”.
Bernard De Carrere, the Deputy Mayor of Issy-les-Moulineaux who has responsibility for sport in the town, also welcomed the participants, alongside Jean Denis Barbet, President of the Ile de France League; and Dominique Fontanon, Vice President of the Fédération Française de Squash.
Nations competing in Paris are Australia, Austria, Canada, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, USA and Wales – all pictured above.
Pictures courtesy of WSF / Gallery from Squash Mad archive