by Mahmoud Fouly
ISMAILIA, Egypt, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- "After winning the bronze medal, I hope to get the gold medal in the next Olympic Games," 18-year-old Egyptian weightlifter Sara Samir told Xinhua in an interview on Monday.
The young athlete returned to her hometown in the Suez Canal province of Ismailia with a bronze medal from Rio de Janeiro's 2016 Olympic Games.
Samir had previously secured a gold medal in the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in China.
She urged the state to pay more attention and support weightlifters, after her close attempt to win the gold medal in Rio.
"I hope the state pays more attention to individual sports like foreign countries do, so that we can win more medals. Most members from the Egyptian team were very close to securing medals in Rio, and I think they would have if weightlifting received enough support in Egypt," Samir said.
Samir added that she won many medals in several competitions, including the African Olympic Games in 2012 and in 2014 Under-17s and Under-20s competitions in Tunisia.
"In both competitions i secured 12 gold medals and four best-player cups. I also joined two Under-17s world championships in 2013 and 2015 where I secured six gold medals - three in each," the teenage Egyptian champ told Xinhua.
Describing her feelings upon receiving the Olympic medal and raising the flag of Egypt in Brazil, Samir said "It was a great feeling. I was very happy that I was the first player in Rio to win a medal for Egypt. I was also very happy to win an Olympic bronze medal at only 18-years-old."
Samir said that when weightlifting in Rio, she was supported by the sports minister, the head of the Olympic committee and other senior members, and some were even moved to tears of joy when she won the medal.
The weightlifter stressed that in order to succeed, an athlete must properly exercise, focus and train hard.
"Anyone who plays a sport wouldn't feel real satisfaction unless they win a medal."
As with other muscle-based sports, weightlifting is unpopular and some consider it odd that a female chose it as a sport to practice in the Egyptian male-dominated society.
However, the Samirs were more understanding.
"I faced no problems from my family as a female practicing a typically male-dominated sport. I was around 10 when I saw my brother weightlifting and I liked it. I told my late father about my interest in it and he did not object. On the contrary, he supported me and sent me for training, which is how I started. No one in my family was against me practicing weightlifting as a female," the athlete recalled.
"My interest in the sport started when I was 10. I started training when I was 11 or 12, and currently I'm a high school student and will enroll in university next year," she told Xinhua, pointing out that she wants to get high grades to attend a good college but she hasn't yet decided which field she would like to study.
As a senior high school student, Samir ceded her final exams to attend the Rio championship.
This led to her missing vital exams in Egypt which would determine her higher education college opportunities.
She would very much like to have her exams rescheduled via a special committee instead of losing an entire school year.
"Officials on TV shows promised to help but I haven't yet been officially informed or contacted. So, the problem still exists," Samir lamented.
To prepare for Rio 2016, the young athlete joined the national weightlifting team in three training camps in Uzbekistan, the United Arab Emirates and finally Brazil, ahead of the competition, spending around a month in each camp.
Samir's nutrition regimen is normal with no special diet for a weightlifter. She does exercise daily for two hours or more however.
"I was trained by several coaches, but my trainer for the Rio Olympic Games was Khaled Korany, the national team's coach," Samir told Xinhua.
She added that she was once trained by a Chinese coach for over a year in the coastal city of Alexandria and that she traveled to China three times for training camps in the past.
A ceremony was held Saturday by Ismailia's Governor Yassin Taher in honor of the teen weightlifter and a congratulatory message was conveyed to the little champion by Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.
"I thank all Egyptians who supported and prayed for me to win. I am also grateful to my community in Ismailia who have followed me on TV and wished me the best. I am very grateful to all of them," the teen weightlifter concluded.