One of my earliest recollections goes back to when I was seven years old winning the 'One-Width' Race at Maadi Sporting Club's (MSC) legendary swimming pool. In my pre-teens I won the Suzy Forte Cup several times but unfortunately the swimming committee would not let me keep it.
Probably influenced by my older brother Ismail, a world class diving champion, I was privileged to train under retired world champion Farid Semeika Bey who later died in the Pacific WW2 theatre while serving in the American Air Force. Due to some recurring technical handicap Semeika suggested I forget about diving and concentrate on some other sport. The choice was between volleyball and water polo. I chose the latter first as a reservist on the national team and in 1949 as a full-fledged member.
I was finally participating in international competitions!
My adventures swimming accross the English Channel started with a 1949 newspaper advertisement. The National Swimmimg Federation was scouting for volunteers. Once I signed up I was immediately put through a grueling training program in Cairo, including an exhausting 10 km swim around Zamalek Island. On round one I came out third clocking 2 hours and 45 minutes. On round two, which entailed circling the island twice, I came out second just under 7 hours. Because I was among the top three I was admitted hands down much to the surprise (disapointment?) of the organizers!
I was soon put to task during the September 1949 English Channel Six-man Relay. As it turned out we achieved record-breaking results. The Egyptian team thus won The Daily Mail prize for the first time! My finest hour had finally come.
CROSSING THE CHANNEL
getting ready to cross the English Channel in 1949
press correspondent Abdelmoneim Al-Sawy checking the time
A few years later I was part of the Egyptian water polo team at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. To this day I shall never forget the opening ceremony parade with almost 90,000 spectators and colleagues cheering on. It felt like I had reached the unreachable! My teammates in this wonderful adventure were:
Ahmed Fouad Nessim
Samir Ahmed Gharbo
Taha Youssef el-Gamal
Mohammed Abdelaziz Khalifa
Galal Abdelmeguid Aboulkheir
I had the privilege to take part in many other international events.
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