Aya Ayman, an 18 year old AUC Business student, a professional Paralympic swimmer at Egypt’s Comitee for Paralympics took a deep breath and dove into giant waves when she challenged herself to become Egypt’s first and youngest Paralympic Swimming Champion.
Confident, witty and beautiful, all define Aya’s character who is also an actress at AUC Film and Theatre Committee ‘CFC Theatre and Film Club’. We’ve met with Aya at BP’s award celebratory reception which was part of BP Egypt long term efforts to promote and support Paralympic athletes in Egypt, encouraging athletes like Aya who are training for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
It all started in 2006 when El Shams Club established their brilliant Special Needs team and Aya was one of the first athletes on board. Aya has competed in national championships in 2008 and international championships in 2014 and is also the second female swimming champion after the brilliant Farida Osman to win 2 World Championship medals in 2017, the first in the Paralympic swimmer in the Middle East, the 7th on the world in 2015 World Championship and she was the first and youngest woman in the history of paralympic swimming to reach these amazing heights, skyrocketing to Rio De Janero 2016 Paralympic Championship.
“They told my mom I was going to die. They told her not to spend too much effort with me as I am dying anyways”, Aya tells. Aya’s mom believed in her when she first looked at her. She put her masters and PHD studies on hold and decided to focus on Aya’s upbringing and education. “My mom invested so much in me and saw that I have a deep passion for swimming. She also provided me with the best education any child can have and taught me amazing time management skills”, Aya says.
Aya had a childhood dream to become a doctor but this dream didn’t last for long, “Education was the most difficult phase of my life. I wanted to become a doctor, I really don’t know why” she laughs. “I changed my mind after falling in love with swimming and cinema. I wanted to help Special Needs to enjoy an easy living so I decided to study business in order to create special and creative projects that help people with disabilities. I love sports and I want to open my own gym and have it equipped catering to special needs too”, she tells. Aya is a film buff and loves cinema and theatre. “I want to become the first wheelchair professional actress in Egypt”, she says.
It’s no news that Football is one of Egypt’s sacred passions. Many successful and international athletes have always told us that they wish they receive the same support football players enjoy. “Yes of course it’s always about football here. To be fair, now our achievements are highlighted better than a decade ago but paralympics champions find a challenge to get enough financial support. The facilities we receive are very limited and we always find it hard to get trained abroad. Also media needs to shed light on our abilites all year long and not just when we win medals and that’s sit. We work hard, we are champions and we are enough! Our achievements deserve to be accredited better. It shouldn’t be a press release or a piece of news, we have a great story to tell”, Aya says.
Being part of an international championship isn’t a piece of cake. It requires intensive training and hard work. “Well, we don’t always have the financial support to get us trained for a championship. I need to travel way more than that and I need to have a good traveling credit that translates into training sessions that result in achievements at the end. I went to Berlin in July 2017 and then Mexico in December 2017. The gap is huge and I shouldn’t sit like that doing nothing I need to fill in my schedule with travels and trainings, BP of course particpitaed in that change and life is way better now with them but athletes need more”, she explains. BP, the first oil and gas company to become an official partner of the Egyptian National Olympic and Paralympic and has signed three agreements to sponsor Aya Ayman as well as two other Paralympian Champions Ahmed Abdel Fattah (Sitting Volleyball) and Mostafa Fathalla (Athletics).
The whole country isn’t wheelchair friendly. Our streets, malls, schools, sports clubs need a serious construction plan. “Streets aren’t the only problem, the big problem is the people on those streets. People here don’t know how to deal with wheelchair users. They sometimes tell me ‘Inshallah you’ll get well’ ! I don’t want to hear any of that. People need to know who I am. Awareness needs to take place. That’s why I want to make films about us”, she tells.
Watch Aya’s latest short film on her Fb page: @ayaaymanabbas