Fifteen years ago, when he started diving in Cairo, Egypt, Mohab Ishak, then nine, was far from imagining that in 2021 he would be ready to compete at his second Olympic Games, in a couple of months in Tokyo. Semi-finallist in the men’s 3m springboard at the FINA Diving World Cup, concluding today in the Japanese capital, Ishak still smiles after concluding in the 18th and last position.
“It wasn’t the semi-final I wanted, as I failed my first and the last dive – the latter is a 109C (forward 4 ½ somersaults, tuck), and it was the first time I was performing it at this level. I managed to do it, but it’s a hard dive”, the Egyptian ace considers. However, before coming to Japan, he was already assured that he would take part at this year’s Games, after gaining his continental spot through the African Championships. “My goal here was to reach the semi-final. I did it. As I want to present the same dive list at the Olympics, I now have some room for improvement”.
At 24, Ishak has already a lot of international experience in the discipline. His first appearance at the highest level was at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing (CHN), where he was 11th in the 10m platform. At the 2015 Worlds in Kazan, he competed in both 3m and 10m, but for Rio 2016, he got his spot on the higher board. There, he was only 28th of the preliminaries. “From that moment on, I decided I had to change focus and I start competing seriously in 3m springboard. In Rio, I was injured and the competition did not go the way I was looking for. Now, I am in my comfort zone – I focus better on my dives in springboard”, Ishak admits.
Training and living in Cairo, he started in the discipline at nine – a “bit late for Egyptian standards”. But he was soon noticed for his potential and his entourage ensured he could compete as frequently as possible, both at home and abroad. “Coming to Rio, in 2016, it was a bit like a dream. I was really enjoying it, until I put my foot on the platform for my first dive there – I felt a lot of pressure then, all the world is watching you. Not only the spectators in the arena, but in all TV screens around the world”, he recalls.
Tokyo being his second Olympic experience, he hopes he can enjoy the Games in a more relaxed way. “I believe I can improve here in Tokyo. That’s why it’s so important we can compete here at this stage – it gives us the ideal preparation for the Olympics. The venue is perfect – I love everything here!”
On specific goals at the Games: “To finish in the top-8. Let’s see what happens, but I am super excited to be coming back to this pool. Also, I feel honoured I could travel in these so special circumstances now, when the situation is still quite challenging. I believe everyone is now ready for the Olympics – we have been waiting so long for this, after the one-year postponement of the Games…” Besides Ishak, two additional divers from Egypt, are qualified for this summer’s Olympic rendezvous.
Concerning the special conditions in which this World Cup (and the Games) is held, Ishak is quite philosophical: “I was initially expecting I would be able to walk around and see a bit from the city – but then, coming here, we got the information on which exact conditions we would encounter. In the first day, while training, we were not respecting social distancing as we should. However, then, the situation got better, people knew exactly what to do and how to behave and the situation became pretty much manageable. After the first three days, when you get used to it, you really feel safe. At home, I know people that took COVID from nowhere, so we really need to be cautions and take all the appropriate measures”, he concludes.