In this edition of StarGazer:
Raneem El Weleily, Egypt
STARGAZER: Firstly, congratulations on your recent achievements – winning the CIMB Malaysian Open and making the U.S. Open final. You’ve had a successful year so far, currently ranked World No.2 and seeded second in the World Series rankings. How do you feel about your performance and what are your secrets in achieving this?
RANEEM: Thank you very much, I’m really happy with my achievements this year and come to think about it, I just realized that I used to dream about all of this. Never thought that someday it’ll come true. But it’s been great and i’m hopin’ I can maintain this level and performance for the longest time possible. No secrets in achieving this; I believe that everything I worked for in my entire squash career has finally brought me to this point.
STARGAZER: How were you exposed to squash and what made you choose squash as a career?
RANEEM: Back when my parents chose squash for my brother, the Egyptian under-19 boys team had just won the Teams World Open. So they liked the idea. They were choosing between squash and tennis though and finally they chose squash coz it’s an indoor sport and since it rains all the time in Alexandria, my hometown, and since we don’t have many closed tennis courts, this really affected their decision. Funny huh? So anyhow, my brother joined squash when I was 4 but only at 6 did I join after watching him play for 2 whole years.
STARGAZER: What is a typical day in Cairo for Egyptian No. 1, Raneem El Weleily? Does it involve a lot of training in nicks and drops?
RANEEM: Hahaha surprisingly no, since all my coaches don’t encourage me to actually play these shots so they never actually let me do them during training. So basically I wake up, have breakfast (usually one or two sandwiches and juice), then head to my first training session around 10am which usually involves fitness and either solo training or feeding by my coach, Haitham Effat.
Then I go back home if I don’t have any errands to run, stay there from 2-6pm, have lunch and watch some TV. Second training session starts from around 7-9pm. Dinner’s at home around 10pm, usually a light meal but that’s not the case with most Egyptians as most of us have big lunches and dinners. Some TV and bed around 12 midnight.
STARGAZER: You are known to be ‘calm and smiley’ during matches even when the going gets tough. How do you manage your composure in intense situations?
RANEEM: The smile is actually related to my dad. Whenever he came to watch me as a kid, he thought I didn’t smile enough on court and that if I loved squash, I’d smile more often. And that’s when it all started. The calmness is not the same during practice though, you don’t wanna see this other side of me.
STARGAZER: Your family is clearly a fantastic support system for you (we see them supporting you actively on Facebook and Twitter). Perhaps you could share a little bit about your family background.
RANEEM: I feel very lucky to be raised by such great parents (the whole family really are great). Parents – both engineers, have both my brother Tameem’s and my back at all times 100%. We’re a typical Egyptian Family, conservative yet open minded enough. They allowed and understood us even if sometimes we wanted to do things differently. I love them so much and I’m blessed to have them. My older brother Tameem is my favorite person I can never tell him NO. He’s an idol of mine and as a kid, I used to imitate his every move and word. I think that till now, I still have that in me.
STARGAZER: What are six items you must have with you while travelling?
RANEEM: The Quraan (our holy book), iPad, iPod, Beats headphones, Japanese puzzles and my passport
STARGAZER: Is there anyone in particular that inspires you and if there is, why?
RANEEM: No one off the top of my head but my favourite sportsman is Roger Federer.
STARGAZER: What are your thoughts on squash’s chances to make the cut for the 2020 Olympic Games?
RANEEM: I think our chances are pretty high this time. Our campaign is soooo good and everyone is doing the best they can to either promote, support or help squash. We’ve come so much further than we did the last time. And now as I watch a squash match either online or on TV, I absolutely can’t imagine how someone can not love this sport. It looks so good, it feels so great and it moves you in a way no other sport does. If squash doesn’t make it this time, I don’t know when it will. Squash is at it’s best time yet.
STARGAZER FACT FILE:
Age : 23
Nationality : Egyptian
Home State/Town/City : Alexandria <3<3
Current Residence : Cairo
Current World Ranking : 2
Coach : Haitham Effat and Ahmed Faragallah
Racquet : Harrow Vapor
Favorite Squash Player of All Time : Amr Shabana
Proudest Achievement : Reaching the world number 2 ranking
Favorite Tournament : Any Tournament in Egypt, love the ones in Malaysia and loved Mexico!
Favorite Food : Recent Sushi Addict
Favorite Holiday Destination : Anywhere I can have my friends around me
Favorite Color : Forever Green