Olympics-bound Egyptian fencer trains in Issaquah
July 24, 2012
By Christina Corrales-Toy
At just 22 years old, Egyptian fencer Mannad Zeid is just days away from competing on a stage reserved for only the world’s elite athletes.
On July 29, Zeid will grab his saber, put on his mask and prepare for one of the most intense moments of his fencing career when he participates in the men’s individual saber competition at the 2012 London Olympics.
Zeid is from Alexandria, Egypt, and has been fencing nearly all of his life. The road to London took a stop in Issaquah last week when he came to train with Wang Yung, an expert saber coach at the Washington Fencing Academy.
“I came here to train with him for a week because he has a lot of experience,” Zeid said. “He has already improved me within three days.”
Yung is one of the best saber coaches in the country. He’s trained national and world champions and still competes in the sport himself.
The goal of the week was not to completely change Zeid’s fencing style ahead of the games, but to apply subtle changes to his technique. This is the first time that Zeid and Yung have worked together, but Yung was impressed with how quickly the young fencer made adjustments.
“I’ve been coaching for many years and you don’t often see an athlete like this who can actually make some, what would be subtle, but very rapid changes,” Yung said.
Yung added that opponents can expect to see a different fighter in Zeid after their week together.
“I added to his repertoire of attacks, and a few more things,” Yung said. “So for those that have fenced Mannad before, in London they are going to see a little bit of a different version, which is a good thing.”
Zeid, who recently graduated from medical school, did not have the luxury to train 24/7 for the upcoming games, unlike some of his international counterparts. But he did his best to manage a training schedule, while studying to be a pharmacist.
“I trained three days per week, and studied for about two hours per day,” he said. “Nothing is in my mind except for training and my studies, and my family helped me with that. They always encouraged me, they helped me during study, and anything I needed, they gave to me.”
The Olympian added that the Egyptian revolution had an effect on his training as the team lost funding to attend camps and training sessions. The athletes themselves had to foot much of the costs of training.
“Balancing the revolution has been a big problem for us for training,” he said. “We stopped training for several months and now there’s no money for us, for making camps, for training, for traveling abroad, for participating in competition.”
Zeid is among a field of 37 fencers who will compete in the men’s individual saber competition. His main goal for the event is to represent his country well.
“I want to make a good result for my country,” he said. “I know that it’s very difficult, but I hope to win a medal.”
Zeid’s time in Issaquah wasn’t all work and no play. The fencer stayed with the family of Washington Fencing Academy cofounder Serge Timacheff, who made sure Zeid experienced everything that Issaquah had to offer.
From visits to Costco, Las Margaritas and Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive-in, to a meet-and-greet with Mayor Ava Frisinger, Zeid grew quite fond of the Issaquah community.
“I like the city because it is very calm,” Zeid said. “All the Americans here are very friendly to me.”
The Washington Fencing Academy boasts a strong international presence and holds relationships with fencing clubs around the world. The staff and coaches, in particular, have important international fencing connections and experience. Timacheff is the official photographer for the International Fencing Federation and Yung brought home gold at the World Veteran Fencing Championship in 2011.
These connections allow the Issaquah club to bring in world-class athletes. Timacheff said that visits such as these are important to the club and its members, allowing them to meet and learn from elite international athletes.
“While this is a place to come work out and learn a cool sport, it’s much more than that,” Timacheff said. “It’s also a place to learn about the world and to be part of a culture and a community and a worldwide movement of a spirit that speaks to sportsmanship and friendship.”
During his visit, Zeid took the time to fence many of the Washington Fencing Academy members. From young kids to adults, he took the time to meet with everybody, showing he wasn’t above any sort of competition. It’s an experience that Yung hopes will motivate his students at the academy to work that much harder.
“I hope that having Mannad here, people get the sense that we are performing at an elite level,” Yung said, “and I hope that it inspires everybody at the club.”
Christina Corrales-Toy: 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.