Meet Malak Hamza, a 20 years old Trampoline Gymnast, who started her journey when she was 14 years old, back in 2015. Before that, Malak used to only watch gymnasts perform from the windows of the gymnastics hall. “As a kid I’ve always dreamed of being one of them, a part of this, but sadly when I decided to ask if I could join, I was 14 years, and I was too old to join gymnastics, especially if they wanted to compete professionally.”
A Flip Away
“I joined the gymnastics academy and by time I got more comfortable sharing my goals with my coach. I started telling him how much I wanted to join Trampoline but I was too old to join any team, yet I didn’t give up. I used to ask the coach if I could put the mini Trampoline in front of the Trampoline coaches so they could notice my flips. I kept doing that until one day they called me and asked me to do other flips, and I did! I couldn’t believe myself when they told me I could join the trampoline academy and this is where it all started!”
First Championship’s a Charm
“I was very excited and happy with training, I worked really hard on myself and my physique just so I could be fit enough for the sport, but after a while I started feeling that I wanted more, I wanted to join a team and start competing. I had a talk with Farida Amin (the head coach back then), I told her that I want to do more and she believed in me and gave me an opportunity to join a team with my very first team coach Nour Azab. I got even more excited and I fell in love with the sport as I started training and working on my requirements so I could compete, but because I didn’t have any gymnastics background it was very difficult for me to learn skills because my body and mind just didn’t comprehend it. We worked really hard so we could get all the requirements done with the help of Seif Asser (my current coach), and finally my dream came true! I competed in my first National championship in 2016-2017 and won first place! It was magical, and I couldn’t believe it!”
Another day, Another leap
“After competing in the first competition I yearned for more. I used to see the national team come to the club to train and prepare for international competitions and I wanted to be one of them one day, but all I could think of is that I won’t be able to afford to compete in any international competition. My coach and I, kept working on improving with difficulty and skills no matter what, and after a while some officials from the Federation announced that there will be a qualification test for the world’s age group competition in Sofia Bulgaria in 2017. I qualified in first place and I couldn’t believe myself because before the qualifications I was so worried they would only pay for the first qualifier, and thank God it was me! Another dream came true and it was one of the best experiences of my life!”
Success is never linear
“Sadly, I started developing new problems in my sports career, I started noticing that I get black outs during competition, and I crashed my routine in Sofia. I just wanted more experience. We got back from the competition and we started preparing for the African championships in 2018 [Youth Olympic Games qualifications 2018]. I qualified for the African championships but sadly I messed up my routine again on the qualifications day [qualifications for youth Olympics], but fortunately for me, one of my teammates also failed her routine one skill earlier than mine, so I was given the chance to compete again in the finals for the next day, and thank God I got second place for Egypt! I was thrilled by the win, but deep down I felt unsatisfied because my main goal was to qualify for the Youth Olympics and it was not only my dream it was also my coaches’; Nour Azab and Seif Asser. We all worked really hard for that dream and back then I wanted to do it for Nour Azab, who was seriously injured during her qualifications for the youth Olympics in 2014. “
The Comeback; The World Cup
“The results of the African championships affected me for a very long time. I qualified for the world age group in Russia St. Petersburg in 2018 but I also crashed my routine. We didn’t give up, we started working even harder. 2019 was a comeback for me. It was a very stressful year but I managed to get through it, and I competed in my first ever World Cup as a senior athlete. I finished both my routines with a higher score for Egypt, it was a moment of joy and pride for me! A few months later I qualified for my first world championships in Tokyo in 2019, I didn’t perform my best, I landed the last kill on the mat in my last element (by landing on the mat either the routine stops or you get a huge deduction if it was only on the last element).
I knew I needed to work harder not only on the trampoline but also on my physique and mentality. Sadly, the pandemic was on, but that didn’t stop me from improving. I took advantage of that time to work on my physique by performing workouts at home and by working on my mentality and preparing myself mentally to get back even stronger following the pandemic. I got back stronger and more confident but in my first national competition I crashed again. I started working harder and all I could think of is that I want to start to compete internationally with the best people in the world, and not only in Egypt.”
Glory Starts with A Plan
“My coach Seif Asser and I, started putting plans and working harder on improving my skills. I started to develop more problems in my career such as the mental block, which was the biggest obstacle I’ve ever had. Having a mental block is basically being lost, my brain doesn’t understand the skill and couldn’t connect with my body, but I kept trying as hard as I could to fight it, yet it was really difficult especially that not everyone would understand how it felt. I worked really hard with my mental coach but it was easier said than done to get rid of the fear inside of me, it was killing me.
I showed up to training but was unable to train, I got out of the session with tears all over my face for months. I would have only 2-3 good training sessions in the entire month. A few months into 2021 the Federation announced that the qualification for the African championships (qualifier for Tokyo 2020 Olympics) were close. I got so frustrated and I was so stressed because I wasn’t able to jump my basic skills. There were three qualifications (they will pick the highest two scores), The first one was the national championship and I remember all I did was have faith in God and just went for it even though the day before the competition I wasn’t able to jump. I managed to jump both my routines and for the first time in five years I got a national title!”
We Fall, Then We Rise
“The second qualification was the worst; I couldn’t even warm up. All my brain would think about was that I would injure myself if I jumped any skill and for the first time, I cried during jumping after saluting the judges to start. I was in so much pain mentally, and I didn’t even start one skill into the routine (which is really embarrassing for gymnasts). All I could think about was that my dream is slipping away along with the only chance I had to compensate for the 2018 youth Olympics.
After that mental breakdown, my coaches Seif Asser and the Russian expert Sergei started changing my routines into easier ones, just so I could qualify for the African championship, and I did, I finished my routines in the last qualifications and I qualified! It was a huge relief for me, I took it as a sign for a better start. Sadly, the mental block wasn’t gone, I still struggled and the federation and my teammates weren’t supportive at all. Seif Asser (the only coach that knows how to deal with what was going on inside my head) was only barely allowed to coach me during the preparations, as he was competing himself. By the time we got to the podium training (the day before the competition) I couldn’t jump! “
Do It Scared, But Do it!
“I was so scared, I couldn’t control it, but all I could do was have faith in God, I prayed to God to help me get through, and he did, I qualified for the finals! I was so glad but the stress wasn’t over yet. Finals day came and I didn’t have any motivation, I had self-doubts that I couldn’t make it, or that I didn’t deserve to be where I am, so I had to look for something. I focused on the first place on the medal podium. I kept looking at it and I told myself “this is where you want to be and you got this, you can do it!” And I did!!!
Straight to Tokyo!
“After the scores came out I had my first ever tears of joy, I felt like there was no pain, no struggle, nothing!! All the pain disappeared into thin air. I couldn’t believe that I qualified for the OLYMPICS!!! It took me weeks to process that I qualified, and honestly sometimes it would feel very difficult to be happy about it because of all the stress and struggle I’ve been through. The mental block wasn’t over but I kept pushing. All I wanted was to represent my country in the best way possible, as it was my honor to be the first Egyptian woman to qualify for the Olympic Games and I wanted to help improve the sport in Egypt. The responsibility wasn’t only between me and myself, I felt that there was a lot of weight on my shoulders that I just couldn’t carry well.
A Gymnast at the Olympics
“We took off to Tokyo, this was where I felt both blissful and anxious, as I got closer to competing with the best gymnast in the world. As we arrived in the Tokyo Olympic village, I wanted to enjoy every moment, but my worries didn’t allow me to. My first training didn’t go very well at all, it actually made me more anxious and scared. The five days of training were hell, and what made me even more heartbroken is that being at the Olympics is my dream, and it came true yet I couldn’t enjoy it.
The competition day came, this is when I started thinking only about myself, how I would make myself happy and proud, how I would be satisfied. The results are for me, not for anyone. When I started to shift my focus towards myself and be slightly more selfish for a few hours, I started connecting to myself again. Instead of trying to please others, I was trying to choose myself, this is what helped me perform very well in one of the most important events in my entire career!”
The Self Deserves ovation!
“I remember screaming from the inside and telling myself: wow you made it here look around you this is amazing from under my mask! I started to enjoy the moment and the mat right in front of me while I was jumping read: Tokyo 2020, all I could think about is that I made it here and I deserve to be here! This is the time I do this performance solely for myself and not for anyone else!
I managed to do both of my routines and I know if I was given the chance to go back on the trampoline and redo them again I couldn’t have done it better, even though I knew deep down that if I didn’t have the mental block I might have had better results, but because I had faith in God, he had the best plan for me, and I won ninth place (first reserved for finals), which was the highest score any Egyptian trampolinist has ever achieved!”