Meet Malak Abdelshafi, Egypt's Paralympic Swimming Champion

Egypt's First Female Swimmer Gets Qualified for Tokyo Paralympic Games Finals
Malak Abdelshafi, Egyptian Champion in Paralympic Swimming, donning some of her medals. (Photo Courtesy of Malak Abdelshafi)

The Egyptian Paralympic swimming team performed well at the World Championships, which were held from June 8 to 18 in Madeira, Portugal, with four swimmers reaching the finals for the first time in a long time.

Egypt's Paralympic Swimming Champion, Malak Abdelshafi, finished fourth in the world in the 100m breast-stroke in the medical classification sp4 class with a time of 2.16, only five seconds behind the French champion.

Because of the young age of the swimmers and the fact that four swimmers have reached the world championship finals for the first time in a long time, these results are considered a major achievement for Paralympic swimming.

Malak Abdelshafi, a 19-year-old, is the first Egyptian female swimmer qualified for the finals of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020 and an African Record Holder in 100m breastroke (London 2019) and winner of the Silver Medal at the Youth World Championship (Athlone 2018).

Malak Abdelshafi, Egyptian Champion in Paralympic Swimming. (Photo Courtesy of Malak Abdelshafi)

Malak suffered severe spinal cord injuries in an accident when she was 10 months old, leaving her partially paralyzed. After the accident, hydrotherapy was part of her treatment, and she grew to enjoy swimming as a result. Abdelshafi joined Egypt's national team in 2014. Since then, Abdelshafi has won 39 national and 6 international medals.

Majalla recognizes Abdelshafi's great achievements and sheds light on her journey as part of its efforts to support women in sports. Malak Abdelshafi recalled her inspiring journey and started her speech with; “I began swimming as a form of hydrotherapy because wheelchair users frequently require blood circulation. I had no intention of swimming professionally. My trainer told me I was talented and encouraged me to compete during my hydrotherapy sessions.”

“My first championship was with my club in 2012, and I won a silver medal. I was 9 years old at the time and the youngest participant. We were all taken aback and did not expect it. Since then, I've decided to pursue a professional swimming career. I joined the national team in 2014 as the team's youngest swimmer,” she added.

Malak Abdelshafi is the winner of the Silver Medal at the Youth World Championship (Athlone 2018). (Photo Courtesy of Malak Abdelshafi)

 

Malak's transformation from a recreational swimmer to a professional swimmer at the age of 11 was a watershed moment in her life. Egypt's first Paralympic swimming championship was held in 2015 in Spain, where Malak won two silver medals and one gold. Following that, she competed in numerous international championships, winning several medals and finishing as Ireland's second world junior in 2018.

Her family was her staunchest supporter throughout her journey. When her mother joined her at championships, she usually covered the additional costs of fitness training, nutritionists, and life coaching sessions, as well as travel expenses.

 

Malak Abdelshafi (middle) with her mother (left) and her sister (right). (Photo Courtesy of Malak Abdelshafi)

“My family is my most ardent supporter. I couldn't have done anything without them. One of the most difficult challenges I face [as a Paralympic champion] is finding a sponsor to fund my extra training and the travel expenses of whoever comes with me, which is usually my mother. When my mother joins me at championships, she usually covers the additional costs of fitness training, a nutritionist, and life coaching sessions, in addition to her travel expenses.”

Malak experienced several setbacks in her life, but she believed that when the path to your goal becomes blocked, you should never give up and instead find another way to achieve your goal.

“In 2018, I was injured and diagnosed with Keinbock’s disease, which required the removal of bones from my left wrist, limiting my mobility. I had to have surgery, which prevented me from competing in a champion in 2019 and thus qualifying for the World Championships. But I did not give up. We requested an exception, which was granted, and I was automatically qualified.”

"In 2019, at the World Championships, I broke the African record, finished 10th overall, and qualified for the Paralympics in Tokyo 2021. My ambition has always been to compete in the Olympics. My goal is to win a gold medal and do well for my country.” She added.

Malak’s first championship was with her club in 2012. (Photo Courtesy of Malak Abdelshafi)

 

"Participation in the Olympics was my first dream since the beginning of my swimming career, and achieving good results in the Olympics was my greatest pleasure and happiness," Abdelshafi said.

She continued; "The last world championship in Madeira, Portugal, was held in difficult conditions. We only trained for 40 days before it, and the training was halted due to a change in the Swimming Federation's board of directors. We could have won a bronze medal if we had trained hard enough."

"I have high hopes for the Paralympics in Paris as well as the next world championship in Manchester," she added.

Malak believes that sports have a large influence on our behavior and hopes that one day she can have a positive impact and serve as an inspiration to others.

 

Malak Abdelshafi is the African Record Holder in 100m breastroke (London 2019. (Photo Courtesy of Malak Abdelshafi)

The Egyptian Paralympic swimming champion concluded her remarks by saying: "My advice to everyone, regardless of culture, age, or studies, is to participate in sports. Sports boosts self-esteem and improves health. Athletes must persevere in the face of adversity in order to continue, crown, and become champions."


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