After a tragic car accident gave Amr El Sohagy Quadriplegia in 2010, he took up swimming and mastered it, getting qualified as a National Champion for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics in 2017. Now, he is the first quadriplegic certified PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Open Water Diver in Egypt and the region. We caught up with him to know all about it.
Last Time we talked was in 2017, what have you been up to since?
4 months after I joined the Paralympic national team for swimming. The team and I took part in the play-offs for the Mexico 2017 world championship which took place in Berlin, this was my first international competition with the team.
I competed in the 6th row for the 50m breaststroke race and ended up getting first place and won a gold medal. That’s how I qualified for the world championship in Mexico.
I also participated in the national championship in 2019 and was awarded two medals in the 50m breaststroke and backstroke races. The last time I competed was in the play offs for the 2019 London world championship which took place in Glasgow. I won a bronze medal and qualified for the world championship.
What motivated you to pursue Diving after you became a national champion in Swimming?
Whenever the pool I trained in was deeper than 4 meters, I would feel scared. That’s why, I decided to face my fear and overcome it when I saw pictures of a friend of mine ‘Amena El Saie’ (The CEO of Helm) diving. I liked the idea and told her with only the need to overcome my fear of the depth in mind. She was very excited and helpful from the start. She’s been my diving buddy along with my trainer ever since. She’s also been a major source of motivation for me.
What are the challenges you faced when you started your diving journey?
The first challenge I faced was getting the trainer to teach me the basic skills of putting together the diving kit because I can’t control my hands. Of course, this is necessary for diving and passing the PADI test. Thankfully, Captain Ahmed El Bana was able to teach me the instructions in a way suitable for my condition. He provided helpful tools so it would be easier for me.
The second challenge I faced was overcoming the difficulty in moving under water and going into and out of it. There are no accessibility mechanisms in Dahab. I had to be carried for everything. This was not only tiring, it increased my chances of getting injured.
The third challenge was managing the basic skills of diving under water. This requires having control over both hands at the same time. Thankfully, coach Bana and my diving buddy Amena helped a lot. Their particular concern of the psychological aspect and the safety measures helped me a lot. Not only did it make me feel secure underwater, but also helped me reach 18 meter depth in less 5 days.
2020 was a difficult year for all of us. For you, however, it was the year you were supposed to compete in the Tokyo Paralympics of 2020. Due to the circumstances, it was postponed. What kept you going and motivated?
Although my participation in the 2020 Paralympics will be the first of my life, hopefully, it won’t be my last. That’s why I see this postponement as an opportunity to have more time to prepare myself and be stronger and hopefully make Egypt proud in Tokyo.
Amr El Sohagy, what are your plans in 2021?
I’ll be spending it preparing for Tokyo. I’ll also be training with Coach Bana and Amena to hopefully enter the Guinness World Record for the deepest dive a quadriplegic has ever done.
Surely, the journey of Amr El Sohagy is far from over. His achievements are unsurmountable and he’s already a source of inspiration and pride for us all. The Tokyo Paralympics will take place in August 2021. Follow him on Instagram and @NomadDivers to stay updated on his news.