- Title: WEST BANK: Palestinian women's fencing enthusiast hopes to go global
- Date: 9th November 2009
- Summary: RAMALLAH, WEST BANK (RECENT) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF THE AMARI YOUTH FORUM INSIDE THE AMARI REFUGEE CAMP ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF RAMALLAH RAGHDA HAMAIL, FENCER, ENTERING TRAINING HALL CLOSE OF PICTURE OF TWO FENCING PLAYERS PLAYING (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) FENCER RAGHDA HAMAIL SAYING: "I started when my parents' friends who were members of the club told my parents about fencing. It was a strange idea, I mean the fencing. I did not know what is was. I though it was like in the old days, when people used (large) swords. I wanted to find out about it, so I started practising. I loved it and continued to play it." RAGHDA AND OTHER YOUNG WOMEN AND GIRLS TRAINING CLOSE OF RAGHDA'S HAND WHILE TRAINING GIRLS THROWING TENNIS BALLS AS PART OF THEIR TRAINING TRAINER MIREK ZABIELLO GIVING DIRECTIONS AT TRAINING VARIOUS OF FEMALE FENCING PLAYERS CARRYING FOILS (FENCING WEAPON) DURING TRAINING CLOSE OF RAGHDA HAMAIL TRAINING (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) FENCER RAGHDA HAMAIL SAYING: "I was a Palestinian flag-bearer, I won many medals, with second and third positions, silver and bronze medals. In this respect, yes I am better (than the men who play)." CLOSE OF HAMAIL CONCENTRATING WHILE TRAINING
- Embargoed: 24th November 2009 12:00
- Topics: Sports
- Reuters ID: LVA92YPMWACXBOX4HPWT3RC6XEIC
- Story Text: Raghda Hamail, a rising star in the Palestinian women's national fencing team, aspires to move up in the fencing world by competing on an international level.
Raghda, a 20-year-old media student at Birzeit University, has attained titles in a range of Arab fencing tournaments. Physical strength, agility and nimble fingers have served Raghda well in competitive fencing.
Fencing is a fast and athletic sport, with a history that dates back to ancient Egypt and Greece, when swords would have originally been used. Nowadays, modern fencing more commonly involves the use of a foil - a light and flexible weapon, designed for thrusting during a dual. Fencing tournaments can vary in their format, with both individual and team competitions.
Raghda was born in the al-Amari camp, home to 7,500 Palestinian refugees, on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah. She showed a keen interest in the sport at an early age and started playing at the age of 10 after hearing about a fencing course at al-Amari Youth Centre.
"I started when my parents' friends who were members of the club told my parents about fencing. It was a strange idea, I mean the fencing. I did not know what is was. I though it was like in the old days, when people used (large) swords. I wanted to find out about it, so I started practising. I loved it and continued to play it," Raghda said.
Raghda joined the Palestine Fencing Federation in 2002, and her talent and perseverance have won the federation fame and prestige throughout the Arab world.
So far, Raghda has done much better than her male counterparts in Arab fencing tournaments, during which she has secured four bronze and four silver medals.
On being asked about her achievements as a Palestinian sportswoman, she said she was proud of her contribution.
"I was a Palestinian flag-bearer, I won many medals, with second and third positions, silver and bronze medals. In this respect, yes I am better (than the men who play)," said Raghda.
Raghda competed in the Arab Fencing Tournament in Jordan in 2002 and 2006, and in the Arab Fencing Tournament in Qatar in 2009, amongst other tournaments in the region.
Polish fencing trainer Mirek Zabiello is coaching the female and male national team in a collaboration between the Palestinian Fencing Federation and the Polish-Palestinian Friendship Association.
Zabiello says he is impressed with Raghda's fencing skills.
"Raghda is one that is very good. She is very dedicated and she has made great progress. And also her fitness improved very much," Zabiello said.
Raghda Hamail now wants to take her fencing abilities to higher levels, aspiring to compete on the global stage.
She said, "Inside Palestine I achieved what I wanted, but I would like to compete internationally, to participate more with Western and European players, not just Arab players. I have competed in Arab tournaments for four years now. It doesn't mean I've had enough of it, I just need more experience from Western (players), especially the Europeans who are well known in this sport for being very good."
During the Third Local Fencing Tournaments, the al-Qasaba Theatre in Ramallah was packed with fencing fans who cheered and sang to support their local hero in the final game. Hamail won second place.
The Palestinian fencing star says she hopes to spread the art amongst Palestinian youth and act as an ambassador for sport in the Palestinian territories.
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