Squash Player Balances Fasting with Finals

The winner of last Monday’s Professional Squash Association (PSA) Women’s Young Player of the Year, Egyptian Nouran Gohar, was buzzing as she arrived at the UAE for her opening match of the Dubai World Series Finals, despite the fact that she accepted that her opponents might have a slight advantage.

Some Muslim players decided not to fast during the championship, which coincides with Ramadan this year, making up for their missed fasts after the end of the month. But some of the seven Egyptian players who dominate in the top 16 positions in the tournament have been training with their upcoming fasts during the competition in mind.

“It’s hard to play when you are fasting. But back home in Egypt, we train when we are fasting. So I am prepared because I knew I would be playing my matches while fasting,” Gohar told The UAE’s The National.

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The 19-year old is the youngest player in the PSA women’s top ten. She reached a career-high world ranking of number three in November 2016.

“The week before, we were fasting and playing two hours before breaking our fast. So yeah, it will be difficult, but I will do my best,” she said.

The most challenging part of playing professional sports in the month of Ramadan is the change in routine, says Gohar.

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“It’s like the day is night and the night is day. It’s totally different. For example, last night I slept after 4am because we eat suhur at that time and then pray. We went to sleep after that and then I woke up around noon or 1pm, and I had my match two hours later,” she explained.

“It wasn’t difficult because I woke up and then I had only two hours without food or drink. Now I am just going to take a shower and try to relax or sleep until 7pm, then eat and enjoy the rest of the day.”

Fasting during the month of Ramadan is an obligation upon every adult Muslim who is physically fit and not travelling. However, there are exceptions to the rule.

Gohar is an immensely talented athlete who gained her first tour title at the Prague Open in December 2013 when she was just 16. She earned another title in 2014, and eventually beat Egyptian player Omneya Abdel Kawy, bringing her into the world’s top 20 for the first time.

In 2015, Gohar entered the top 15 by winning the World Junior Championship by beating compatriot Habiba Mohamed in the final.

During the China Open, she made it all the way to the final and only lost to the world number two squash player, Egyptian world champion Raneem El Welily.

By the end of 2015, Gohar moved into the world’s top ten. In the past year she won her first World Series title to eventually rise into the world’s top two. Afterwards, Gohar reached the semi-finals of the Orascom Development PSA Women’s World Championships but lost to the current world number one, Egyptian world champion Nour El Sherbini.