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World’s nº1 female squash player makes history

Article - September 24, 2015

Egyptian sport stars have faced a turbulent few years following sustained political upheaval but Raneem El-Weleily’s recent crowning as the world’s best female squash player suggests a far more positive outlook is on the cards for the future

WADI DEGLA CLUBS MEMBER RANEEM EL-WELEILY WAS CROWNED THE NUMBER ONE SQUASH PLAYER IN THE WORLD ON SEPTEMBER 1, 2015, MARKING THE FIRST TIME AN EGYPTIAN FEMALE ATHLETE HAS REACHED THE TOP IN ANY SPORT

Raneem El-Weleily’s achievement is the result of more than a decade’s worth of work, both from herself and from her Cairo-based sports club Wadi Degla. The 26-year-old has been playing the sport since she was 12 but in claiming the top place on governing body WISPA’s official female ranking list in early September, she also recorded an Egyptian first – never before had a woman from the country taken the number one ranking spot in any sport.

Such an achievement is arguably even more impressive as she had to dethrone long time squash legend Nicol David, a Malaysian player who had held the number one ranking for nearly a decade.

The success has come after steady improvement over recent years for the Egyptian athlete, who travels frequently for international competitions and who has been playing for Wadi Degla Club for the past two years.

Her recent triumphs include three major trophy successes – the Alexandria-born player won not only the J.P Morgan Tournament of Champions and the Guggenheim Partners Windy City Open, but also the Alexandria Open. She also recently returned from China, where she claimed the Open title, beating fellow Egyptian Nouran Gohar, and in so doing helped to highlight the unprecedented success of the country’s squash players and the Wadi Degla Club in particular.

Indeed Egyptian women are now becoming as famous for their sporting prowess on the squash courts as their male counterparts, and Wadi Degla’s investment in facilities has helped to drive standards and provide icons for younger players to aspire to. The club also has a history of using innovative training techniques and has spent widely to provide the best environment for athletes seeking to make their mark. And with stars such as Ms. El-Weleily and Ms. Gohar now clearly succeeding, there is tangible proof that the sporting club’s methods can make an impact on the global stage.

Wadi Degla’s spending on sporting infrastructure is not only restricted to squash, however, with swimming and football facilities also developed. The club has taken the business of sport seriously, introducing innovative concepts such as branded sporting academies, becoming the first club in Egypt to adopt such a strategy.

Despite such support, personal sacrifices from athletes are still required and Ms. El-Weleily trains twice daily with only one day off each week. Her schedule is overseen by Wadi Degla’s sports director – and former squash champion – Karim Darwish, who decides the player’s training routines and provides her with technical assistance.

Although her ranking places Ms. El-Weleily at the very top of women’s squash, it is clear keeping players such as Ms. David at bay will be tough. Nevertheless, with increasing numbers of Egyptian women rising to the upper echelons of the sport, the hope is that a new generation of players can be similarly inspired and maintain Egypt’s success in the sport for years to come.

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