Salma Hany is a 25 years old athlete, who found her muse: the sport of squash, ranking now 9th in the world! Salma has been playing for the last 20 years. Like many Egyptian families, hers believed in the importance of sport. She followed her older Brother around through his shift between different sports. When he started playing squash, she was around 5, sneaking in the last 10 minutes of his session, picking up the racquet, which was taller than her, and hitting the balls randomly at the wall. That’s how the story of a girl who fell in love with squash started….and reading through tells how it went on.
her brother played in Smouha club shortly after, at this time, Salma was ready to decide and acknowledge that this is the sport she loves, and chose it. “I was always excited for my sessions, I was so eager and competitive, and so into the sport. I’m not sure if I chose the sport or if the spot chose me. since that time, I never stopped playing squash.” At first, Salma played other sports alongside squash, but squash was her main game. “I loved the court, being in charge and in control of what you do, and picking up the nice outfits. I just walk into the court feeling like I own it.”
When Salma was 7-8 years old, there was a qualification test which determines if you should move on to the next level and professionally or just play the sport for fun. Despite some missed shots, the coach told her mom she had great potential and a promising future. Although her brother quit squash, Salma kept going “. I would never skip my squash sessions for anything else, and the schedule goes around it. I started playing local tournaments at age 9-10, I got second place for my first trophy.”
Throughout her whole junior career between age 10-19, Salma was always in the top 4. She played in the British junior open tournament worldwide 7 times, reached the finals 3 times, and wont it once when she was under 15. This was one highlight of her junior career.” This tournament is a huge deal that takes place in January. We play around 10-12 tournaments per year and everyone’s goal is to qualify for the British junior open.”
“The second highlight of my junior career was winning the world championship with my country, Egypt won the team event, I was the team captain, and playing and winning the last match got us the win. I remember it was very emotional, and my very last ever junior match, winning it for the country was a huge thing and an amazing experience with my team.”
Salma started playing professionally in 2011, the year she won the British junior open. “I felt like I was ready since, and I felt the dream of lifting multiple world championship trophies closer. We have so many Egyptian idols and icons in Egypt. Raneem El-Walili was always mine.”
In 2015, Salma gloriously broke into the top 20! Shortly after, she got an injury in her ankle while playing a tournament in the US. “I stopped playing for a couple of months, my ranking dropped to a 30. I was Alexandrian, I played for Smouha club for 16 years. And I had to stay in Cairo alone for rehab for months. When I started to get back to playing again and improve my rankings, I got injured once more in the same tournament in 2016, same day, I needed to take a rest and my rankings dropped down to top 40.”
“It was a difficult and disappointing time for me, I felt like I was behind after many achievements. I stayed in Cairo again for rehab. Later, I started playing again, slowly climbing up the rankings, breaking into the top 10 last September! it took me a long time, but I believed in what I’m doing and in the process. Everyone faces this kind of pressure when they want to get closer to their dreams. Egypt is one of the leaders in the sport of squash, it was hard to compete with the many great players. Things and people hold you back, but I believed to keep doing what I’m doing, believed in myself, and saw where that is going to take me, and how my hard work pays off.”
When Salma turned 20, in 2019, she took the decision to move to Cairo alone, a step that was tough at first for her family, especially that she was enrolled in a university in Alexandria at that time. “I believed Cairo was better for my training, and I believed if I needed to level up, I need to step out of my comfort zone.”
“I lived in a basic hotel for almost 2 years, nothing fancy. It was very close to where I trained. It was hard, but nothing could be completely perfect. I was getting the training that I believed would get me where I wanted to be. I was happy that I chose to step outside my comfort zone, that the positive will weight heavier than my compromises. I used to train with the best persons in the sport. It was a huge transformation for me.”
“I signed for black ball sporting club, a huge squash hub, I was the first player they signed. The club is amazing, at that time I got my own place. My family was supporting me to become a better person and player every day, and I wouldn’t have gotten where I am without that backup and faith.”
Salma always looked at what she could improve about herself, she was not scared of change or taking risks. She decided to go to the US and train with a notable coach there. It was not full time, but she would fly there frequently to take her sessions, something she believed she should do, something different for her.
“That was another major change for my family. I made a lot of upsets beating top players, like Laura Massaro in 2016, world number 2, I also beat Nour El Tayeb, world number 3. I broke into the top 10 last October, reached my first semi-final in a world series event, the CIB Blackball open (last march), and in April I reached my highest world ranking at no.9. I also qualified for the world tour finals event for the best 8 players in the world for the season 2020/2021 for the first time in my career and it was an honor for me to be among the best 8 players in the world.”
“As an athlete, injuries are inevitable. My inspiration was and is always trying to be a better version by the day, a better player by the hour. It’s not only a sprint, you need to mute all the distractions and everything that pulls you back. I believe in hard work and dedication and I have so much passion for this sport. I dream to be on the top of the world rankings one day. No matter how many times I fail or lose, it’s always part of the process. I try to enjoy many moments of this journey. I don’t wake up everyday with motivation that keeps me going, it is my dedication that does. It’s about working on it every day. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else around you. Everyone is different and everyone reaches their peak in different times… so keep moving until its yours.”