Egypt’s Warrior Princess, Caroline Maher

Caroline Maher is an Egyptian athlete whose achievements, perseverance during hard times and humanitarian work inspired many. A decorated champion since childhood, Caroline’s achievements and spirit have made Egyptians – whose main attention is almost always given to soccer – take notice of her and be motivated by her work. We sat down with her to talk about her journey, her hopes and – of course – sports!


Why Taekwondo?

I was about 10 years old when I first decided to play Taekwondo. It was all a coincidence; I was aiming to join a classmate. I was a bit hesitant about continuing, going home bruised and beaten up. Yet my mother supported me. I continued practicing taekwondo and excelled in it. After a few months I traveled with my team to Germany and won a silver medal. Afterwards, I won the gold medal in the Egyptian national championship and became part of Egypt’s junior Taekwondo national team and a year later Egypt’s senior national team only two or three years after starting Taekwondo. During this journey I received many academic, professional and sport awards.


I was a bit hesitant about continuing, going home bruised and beaten up



Did your parents worry about it being a “boy’s sport”? How did you get them to understand?

On the contrary; they were the ones who supported me and encouraged me the whole way. I couldn’t have achieved anything of what I’d done in any front whether sports, career or education without their support and understanding.


Have you ever had to use your knowledge of Tae Kwon Do in Cairo?

No, luckily not.


Why do you think Egyptians pay so much attention to soccer and so little to other sports?

Most countries pay more attention to soccer. In addition to its numerous fans and the fact that it’s used as a business through which millions of pounds are earned. Also, all standards of people are able to practice it even on the streets due to the fact that its equipment cost nothing.


How can the government support athletes in Egypt?

Over the past year more attention has been given to athletes in terms of more sponsoring, more chances to participate in championships abroad and more media coverage. Yet, I believe more attention and importance should be given to individual sports and Para-sports.


 I never take vacations to enjoy as all my annual leaves are consumed during camps and championships



You faced a lot of obstacles, what were they and how did you get past them?

I faced some challenges in school and universities due to my frequent absence; some teachers and professors where extremely supportive while others weren’t. I also faced challenges at work. I never take vacations to enjoy as all my annual leaves are consumed during camps and championships. My greatest disappointment turned out to be one of my most outstanding achievements. I am the first athlete worldwide to win a case against the World Taekwondo Federation. I was allegedly accused of using steroids and was suspended. I refused to give up and stood up to prove my innocence. We pleaded in the Court Arbitration of Sports (CAS) that the sample wasn’t mine. The CAS ruled in my favor and ordered the highest compensation in the history of sports, which was $20,000. They thought I would shy away just because I come from a third world country but I didn’t give up.


Do you think it’s necessary for women to learn some kind of self-defense?

Definitely, as a form of self-defense, since sexual and verbal harassment have been widespread even more during the last decade.


Take it easy on yourself, little champion. You are going to be a star.


What about relationships, does it intimidate men that you can beat them up?

Not at all. As I told you taekwondo is an artistic sport more than it is an aggressive sport.


If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Take it easy on yourself, little champion. You are going to be a star.


What would you like to do in the future?

I would like to help make a positive change in my country; to develop a Para-taekwondo team that one day can get a medal in the Paralympics. I already proposed the idea to a member in the federation; and to serve a humanitarian cause by continuing to work with Helm and help train and employ people with disabilities. HELM is an organization that aims to promote employment and the full participation of Egypt’s 15 million people with disabilities in all aspects of life. At Helm I find myself giving back to the community and fighting for people with disabilities’ rights.

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