Omar Ahmed El Ghazaly of Egypt competes in the Discus Throw qualifications (Getty Images) © Copyright
Omar Ahmed EL GHAZALY, Egypt (Discus Throw)
Born 9 February 1984, Cairo
2.00m / 130kg
Third of three children; father, vice-chairman of an Egyptian investment company, a former rower; mother a professor of statistics at Cairo University.
Omar Ahmed El Ghazaly’s career reached new heights in 2007, a year in which he set a string of national records, successfully defended his All Africa Games title and was the first Egyptian to reach a World Championship final, as well graduating from the Arab Academy for Science and Technology business school (he even ranked first in his major, marketing).
His other interests include football, especially the English Premiership and Manchester United, and Arabic songs, even writing lyrics himself.
El Ghazaly’s first sport was handball, which he played for Gezira Sporting Club from the age of 10. However, with his brother, Mohamed, and sister, Noha, already in Egypt's national swimming team, Omar could not resist the call of the pool and started playing water polo as a way of combining his attachment to handball and the will to follow his siblings. He would throw a little too but, at that time, it was mainly a hobby, handball being his main focus.
El Ghazaly’s first steps in athletics were monitored by Zaki Abdu. Emad Fayez took over in 1998 and remained by his side for many years, despite the addition of outside coaching expertise, overseeing his preparation in Egypt. In 1999 El Ghazaly was recruited by the former African Shot Put champion, Nagy Asaad, who was setting up a throwing school that also included the hammer thrower, Mohsen Anani, and shot putter Yasser Fathy. After trying different implements, El Ghazaly settled on the Discus and rapidly made his debut in the national team.
In 2000, after recording a promising 55.35, he placed 7th at the African Championships (50.68). Aged only 16, he was selected for the World Junior Championships, in Santiago, Chile, where he finished 17th (50.43). His season ended on a better note with a victory at the Arab Championships, in Syria (53.07).
In 2001, competing in his age category, El Ghazaly clinched the bronze medal at the World Youth Championships, in Debrecen, Hungary, with a 61.06 throw (1.5kg) that was almost 1.50 below his PB (62.50) set in March earlier that year. At the time, he was not yet the best Egyptian thrower, as shown by his narrow defeat by countryman, Ihab Ahmed Ali, at the African Junior Championships, in Mauritius (49.79 to 50.07).
The following year, El Ghazaly could do no better than 10th at the World Junior Championships, in Kingston, Jamaica (58.20, 1.75kg) because of a sore shoulder due to overtraining. He completed his season with a bronze medal at the African Championships, after a poor showing because of the rain, and with gold at the Arab Junior Championships.
In 2003 El Ghazaly spent one month training in South Africa under the supervision of Kaai Preller. He went on to win the African Junior Championships in Garoua, Cameroon (61.87, 1.75kg), the Arab Championships, and the All Africa Games, in Abuja, his first major victory at senior level. However, his performance in Abuja (63.61) was not ratified because a lighter implement had been used. He achieved his best performance with a 2kg implement at the Afro-Asian Games, at the end of October in India (59.77). But the season's climax was still to come. On 7 November, at a meeting set up by the Egyptian federation to allow El Ghazaly to conclude his junior years on a high note, the 19-year old set a World Junior record (65.88). His mark broke the previous one of 64.51 held by the Chinese, Wao Tu, since 2002.
El Ghazaly returned to South Africa from February to April 2004 and broke the 60m barrier with a 2kg discus (61.46) in Algiers on 24 June. But he was a long way short of that at his first Olympics, in Athens (18th in his qualifying group, 55.53). He bounced back in the Pan Arab Games, in October, again in Algiers, where he clinched victory with 61.06.
Since 2005, El Ghazaly has taken part in several training camps directed by Icelandic coach Vésteinn Hafsteinsson, who’s been guiding the career of 2008 Olympic champion Gerd Kanter of Estonia. At the beginning of the summer, he was forced out of the Mediterranean Games by a right foot fracture sustained during a football match. He has since quit playing football except on a Play-station!
Preparing in Kuortane, Finland, El Ghazaly was hoping to be selected for the World Championships, in Helsinki, based on the rule that allows a country that has no qualified athletes to send one male and one female participant. However, his plans were thwarted when the hammer thrower, Mohsen Anani, set a national record and a B-qualifier (75.31) on 22 July, three days before the entry deadline.
Back in Egypt, El Ghazaly produced a massive PB 64.36 in Cairo on 10 August at the time of the World Championships. He then went to the World University Games in Izmir, Turkey, where he finished 2nd (62.68) behind training partner Kanter.
Since the end of 2005, El Ghazaly has consistenly thrown over 63m after setting a new national record with 65.33 in Chula Vista on 12 May. Seven metres ahead of the field at the African Championships (61.11) he easily obtained his selection for the 2006 World Cup, in Athens, where he finished 4th (61.50).
In 2007 El Ghazaly reaped the benefits of two years specific training to bring his legs up to a par with an already-strong upper-body. Having joined Hafsteinsson’s training camp, in San Diego, in mid-April, he improved his national record by an astonishing three times in six attempts in Salinas, California, on 3 May. He threw 65.80 in the third round, 65.91 in the fifth, and 66.10 in the sixth.
El Ghazaly had another good day during the training camp in Helsinborg on 28 June, recording another national record (66.58). He threw 64.41 in Athens four days later but then lost ground through injury. However, he still managed to defend his All Africa Games title in Algiers (62.28) but had to settle for silver at the World University Games, in Bangkok, on 11 August.
After several weeks without coach Hafsteinsson, the final ten-day training camp in Marugame came at just the right time for El Ghazaly to get back to top shape. In Osaka, he became the first Egyptian to qualify for a World Championships final, placing 6th thanks to his 64.58 third-round attempt. “Osaka made my season” said El Ghazaly at the end of 2007.
The 2008 season did not confirm the promise of 2007, as a series of injuries wrecked the Egyptian’s Olympic dream. A combination of bad luck and pushing too hard in training resulted in no fewer than seven injuries in a year (lower back from November 2007 to March 2008, left pectoral during a lifting session in South Africa in February, right latissimus while throwing in April in San Diego, and then the right wrist). At the end of June, El Ghazaly managed to throw 63.08 in Helsinborg (his only performance beyond 63m in 2008), but 6 weeks before the Olympics he sustained other injuries to his right pectoral and right groin. He still managed to get back to competitive level on time for Beijing, but the Olympics delivered the last straw as the right latissimus gave way again during the last training session before the event. In pain, he made an early exit from competition, finishing 23rd of the qualifying (60.24).
Reflecting upon his misfortune El Ghazaly said he’s since learnt “to be smarter in training, not to take chances and also have better nutrition and rest”.
Preparations for 2009 went more smoothly and it shows in the stats records: 6 out of his 10 competition best results were achieved that year. After a training camp in Tenerife in March, El Ghazaly travelled to San Diego for another camp in April where he opened his season on a very high note: 65.18, 64.95, and 64.92, from end April to mid-May in Chula Vista and La Jolla. Back in Europe, based mostly in Tallinn (Estonia) for the summer, the Egyptian carried on with a 66.34 effort (with almost no wind) in Sollentuna on 25 June, just 25cm short of his personal best from 2007. Three days later he injured his left groin and had to take a 3 week-break from competition but he still managed to throw 64.62 in Zaragoza on 18 July.
El Ghazaly however had to settle for 9th at the World Championships in Berlin (62.83). He then returned over 64m at the beginning of September in Helsingborg (64.61), participated in the last World Athletics Final (7th with 61.95) at the beginning of September and went on to take gold at the Francophone Games (62.02) and Arab Championships (61.73) in October.
2010 has been another season marred by injuries. After a promising 64.18 early March at home in Cairo, El Ghazaly first tore his hamstring in March before sustaining an adductor injury in June. The African Championships were his first competition after a 4 month break. Without any other ambition than to get a top 2 finish to qualify to the Continental Cup, the Egyptian still managed to claim the title with a 59.30 effort.
Rather than to put extra pressure on himself this year, El Ghazaly will again get in full focus and dedication mode in the next 2 years, which are more important in his eyes with the World Championships and Olympic Games. But the future currently looks full of uncertainties for the Egyptian who’s been training without a coach for the past 3 months as his national federation says it can’t afford the coaching fee for technical expert Vésteinn Hafsteinsson, who consequently left him. Omar had thus been without a coach, training alone for the past three months, but does hope to finalise an agreement with a coach and physiotherapist in October.
2000: 55.35; 2001: 51.42 / 62.50 (1.5kg); 2002: 53.65 / 58.81 (1.75kg); 2003: 59.77/65.88 WJR (1.75kg); 2004: 61.46; 2005: 64.36; 2006: 65.33; 2007: 66.58; 2008: 63.08; 2009: 66.34; 2010: 64.18
2000 7th African Championships (50.68)
2000 1st Arab Junior Championships (53.07)
2001 3rd World Youth Championships (61.06)
2001 2nd African Junior Championships (49.79)
2002 10th World Junior Championships (58.20)
2002 3rd African Championships (48.17)
2002 1st Arab Junior Championships (57.37)
2003 1st African Junior Championships (61.87)
2003 9th World University Games (55.15)
2003 1st Arab Championships (58.30)
2003 1st All Africa Games (63.61*)
2003 3rd Afro- Asian Games (59.77)
2004 1st Pan Arab Games (61.06)
2005 1st Arab Championships (60.87)
2005 2nd World University Games (62.68)
2006 1st African Championships (61.11)
2006 4th World Cup (61.50)
2007 1st All Africa Games (62.28)
2007 2nd World University Games (60.89)
2007 6th World Championships (64.58)
2009 9th World Championships (62.83)
2009 7th World Athletics Final (61.95)
2009 1st Francophone Games (61.01)
2009 1st Arab Championships (61.73)
2010 1st African Championships (59.30)
(*not ratified, underweight implement)
Prepared by Carole Fuchs and Tahar Righi for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2006-2010