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Tennis champion-turned weightlifting coach defies traditions in Cairo

Feb 12, 2016 A female tennis and swimming champion in Egypt recently set aside her gold medals to start a career as a certified weightlifting trainer.

41-year-old Neveen al-Baaz defied the social norms to pursue her dream in the male-dominated sport. She is now a familiar face at an upscale club in Cairo, where she holds regular aerobics, fitness and weightlifting classes for men and women.

Al-Baaz used to play tennis until she sustained a back injury that forced her to turn to swimming. She then went on to compete in swimming and won several gold medals.

During her swimming years, al-Baaz developed an interest in fitness and weightlifting.

“I then went to the United States for two months to finish a weightlifting course. I left tennis and started lifting weights. I also participated in the CrossFit Open where I finished first in Egypt and 22nd in Africa,”

Neveen, who holds a Master’s degree in Education, said her background in education has helped her forge a trusting relationship with her trainees.

“When I teach them the proper postures and techniques, [the participants] can absorb the information better. Many of them will not accept training exercises given by other people. Not many of them will agree to increase weights when told by other people. You have to have a connection with someone, feel them and have trust in how strong you are to really apply your instructions,”

Sherif Aly Abdelaal, one of her students, said his life has become more organized under her supervision and guidance.

“Nivo helps us organise our lifestyle. She helps organise our diet and the whole day so that as the day ends, I still feel energetic and active,”

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