How Egypt’s Top Squash Players Handle Ramadan

By Rachel McArthur - UAE

Thought fasting in the office was difficult? Then spare a thought for Egypt’s top squash players who will compete in this week’s Professional Squash Association (PSA) Dubai World Series Finals while observing the holy month of Ramadan.

A star-studded line-up, including current male world number one and world champion Karim Abdel Gawad; brothers Marwan and Mohamed ElShorbagy; current female world number one and world champion Nour El Sherbini, and world number two Raneem El Welily will battle it out with 11 more players for the season-closing title and a share of a $160,000 prize fund.

Kicking off today, the World Series Finals brings together the top eight men and women who qualified for the tournament through the PSA Road to Dubai Standings. And this week-long competition is making history this year by becoming the first ever sporting event to be held at the stunning Dubai Opera.

Of course, since it’s running from now until 10 June, many matches will be played before or just after iftar, which is certainly no mean feat. So how do the region’s star players manage their training?
 

Mohamed ElShorbagy
Mohamed ElShorbagy © Moataz Ibrahim Red Bull Content Pool

Former world number one Mohamed ElShorbagy, 26, is lucky – his first matches are scheduled for later on in the evening.

“I try to manage the time of training so that i finish around 30 minutes before iftar,” he tells us. “I just make sure I do some easy routines on court, as training while fasting isn’t healthy for your body. It can expose you to more injuries. And then I make sure to eat a nice snack during iftar, train an hour after and then have a big meal after training.

“After my snack, however, I tend to feel a bit sleepy, so I make sure to have a Red Bull to pump me up and go for training!”

‘YOU HAVE TO PUSH YOURSELF’

For El Sherbini, 21, she is happy she’s never broken her fast during a game.

“I always do two training sessions during Ramadan – one before iftar and one after,” she explains, admitting that the first session is naturally the hardest. “The hardest part is once you finish the session your body needs water, and so I tend to lack energy and feel weak. But your body is so used to this kind of training, I don’t suffer a lot between the sessions, to be honest.”

It’s the motivation to get up and train is what’s harder, she says.

“It’s hard to convince your body to get up from bed to go train. But that’s our life – you have to push yourself.”
 

Nour El Sherbini, left, with Raneem El Welily
Nour El Sherbini, left, with Raneem El Welily © PSA World Tour

Meanwhile, fellow female player El Welily, 28, admits it will be her first time to play while fasting so she will see how she “holds up”.

Describing her training, she says: “Instead of starting our first session at 10 in the morning, we start it as close as possible to iftar time so we don’t get dehydrated. The intensity of the before breakfast session is pretty low. If it is high intensity, it is usually a very short one.

“The food and fluids you put in your body after breakfast are very important to me, so I usually choose them very wisely. I try to drink as much water and sports drinks as I can. I usually eat a little bit during breakfast time – for example, dates are a healthy snack – to be able to do my second session not feeling heavy. Then I eat whatever I want after practice.”
 

Marwan ElShorbagy
Marwan ElShorbagy © PSA World Tour

For world number five Marwan ElShorbagy, 23, (younger brother of Mohamed), playing during Ramadan is a big positive.

“The atmosphere during Ramadan actually encourages you to do a lot of things and be active,” he explains. “It’s very hard to train during Ramadan of course, but we sleep quite late around 3 or 4am and then wake up around 2 or 3pm. I tend to go for a run before we start eating and then after food I go back for training.”

(Article with inputs by May Rostom)

DAY 1: ORDER OF PLAY

  • 15:00 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v Nouran Gohar (EGY)
  • 15:45 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v Nick Matthew (ENG)
  • 16:45 Camille Serme (FRA) v Alison Waters (ENG)
  • 17:30 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v Simon Rösner (GER)
  • 21:30 Laura Massaro (ENG) v Nicol David (MAS)
  • 22:15 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v James Willstrop (ENG)
  • 23:15 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
  • 00:00 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Ali Farag (EGY)

Group stage matches will take place 6-8 June, with the semi-finals scheduled for 9 June. The finals are on the next day, 10 June. Families can obtain free entry to the 3pm sessions on the first two days by emailing info@squashindubai.ae.

For remaining schedule, results and more information, visit psaworldtour.com.
 

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