Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ramy Ashour -- Keeping The Dream Alive

Much will be said and written about what just took place in the finals of the Qatar PSA World Championships. I would like to say when I am left speechless it's when I have the most to say. The finals match between Ramy Ashour and Mohamed El Shorbagy was one of the most incredible matches I've ever seen. Great matches usually have a subtext of drama associated with them. And this match had its share. Ashour coming back after months of inactivity due to injury. Watching him fight his way back to get back to that "zone", as his brother, Hisham, says -- to where he is arguably one of the greatest players ever to play squash. But this game is often bigger than the game itself, this game can inspire you in anything and everything related or not related to squash. You watch this incredible athlete struggle with the "demons", which we saw in the Borja Golan match, through sheer will and determination wrest control from the "demons" and come out victorious -- all of this makes a truly great champion for the ages. I once asked the Egyptian national coach what makes Ramy so special and he simply said, "courage...he has the heart of a lion." What does this mean in the greater scheme of things? I'm not sure. To Egyptians who have struggled and have been near the brink of civil war, it means some kind of respite from the uncertainty about their great state and culture. But even to some young player coming off an injury it means more than anything to now have in their head Ramy's post match interview, "you have no idea how hard I worked to come back, you have no idea what I put myself through." These are words that should echo in anyone's head who is faced with adversity, it's an inspiration, as my son said this morning, when he hit the courts for a training session. "Ramy has inspired me." My son himself is coming back from a devastating ankle injury. And he has struggled mightily in coming back, in fighting the "demons" of fear of injury again. When we hit the courts this morning there was a difference. I knew he was inspired I saw it in his step, in his love for hitting the ball and moving diagonally across the court. He was relaxed like I haven't seen him since before his injury and surgery. I often times in the last months thought the dream we had so long ago might be dying if not dead. Reality is always at odds with the dream. But then there's Ramy who in his magnificent comeback at the Qatar Open, seemed to say he'd go to the ends of the earth, he'd battle any "demons" just to do what he loves to do -- and that is play squash. But that's not just what makes him great. He spoke most of the post match interview in Arabic so "his people" could understand what he was saying. He seemed to be most proud of being Egyptian than in being Ramy, he seemed to say that Egypt too can come back and be great again. It's perhaps easy to read so much more into a great match, but in this case there was so much going on at so many different levels. While he made Egypt proud, made his family proud, made squash proud, he made me proud of my own son who drew upon that finals match and the eloquent words afterwards to come out and keep a dream alive which we've both shared through our own trials and tribulations. No one knows what will sustain us and where it will all lead and for how long, but it's a dream, it's a dream within the moment itself of every point, every shot played. I hope someday I can hear my son say "you have no idea what I put myself through to keep our dream alive."