Eslam AbuAli, the first Egyptian with a disability to compete in the IronMan Triathlon, spoke to us about a decision that changed the remaining duration of his life. That was triggered by a life-changing car accident, leaving him paralyzed (chest down). It has now been about 7 years ago since the incident – January 2012.
It was a great pleasure to reconnect with Eslam, after training with him at Befit Sahel last summer.
We started our conversation by talking about the aftermath of the car crash which resulted in his permanent disability.
Could you tell me more about how you felt? What was the aftermath like emotionally?
I got severely depressed – makanitsh altaf haga khales.
Being disabled felt very limited. You always depended on someone
It felt like it was the end of the world for me.
Fel awel, I wasn’t at peace with myself.
I was always thinking about what will people say about being on a wheelchair.
It was extremely tough.
I will never forget watching that one movie called A Beautiful Mind.
I was inspired by the protagonist ignoring the perceptions of people. From then onwards I would do exactly what he did. I would ignore what people would say even though I would consciously hear them.
“Ya haram, alf salama,, da soghayar ya habibi” and you know… all else.
7 years onwards, that movie still sticks with me and it inspired me immensely get over people’s perceptions of a reality I could only control.
In addition, Eslam briefly touched on the topic of mental health, claiming that everything in his life was all about the decisions he made. After suffering from a crash that paralyzed him from his waist downwards, he specifically mentioned that he had all the reasons to stay in bed for the rest of his life.
Can you comment on the topic of mental health and how you were able to pull yourself to be the champion you are today?
It hit me all at once after the incident.
I refused to accept being just paralyzed and giving up on myself.
So I asked myself is there anyway i can walk again..
Scientifically proven, No.
So I focused on things I could actually influence.
I had a bright side i needed to look at. I have control over my entire Upper Torso. My mind was still functioning super well. My family, friends and my employers all had my back and support. And so I needed to use them to figure out a way and move on with my life.
Before the crash, I took them all for granted but I realized how much it was a blessing when it really mattered.
I realized that in the end. It’s my life. Destiny is always a challenge.
I needed to figure out a solution to get back mentally.
Life is all about the choices we consciously make.
Yes things completely go out of hand; and I can tell you a whole lot about that, but 90% of the time, you have control over the overall picture through your choices and decision-making.
It’s a mindset to turn a challenge into a triumph. One that I still work on day in, day out.
I had all excuses to stay in bed for the rest of my life. I chose to do otherwise.
It’s my life, my challenge and my responsibility Being determined persistent and resilient.
I refused to quit. And it wasn’t easy at all.
All it takes is building yourself one day at a time.
You’ll get there with patience. In my case, I wanted to go against all the odds and turn my biggest challenge into my biggest blessing.
Finally, can you comment on mental health amongst young men in Egypt and what message would you say other experiencing emotional discomfort in Egypt?
With Mental health, I believe that your mind is very powerful, positively and negatively.
It’s in your head, it’s how you perceive things. How you act
It’s your call and decision. Even though it may get dark, you must fight with all your capabilities, believe in yourself, and in the light at the end of the tunnel.
I have never met a winner who hasn’t fought.
Pain is a requirement for champions.
If you are still suffering my only last comment would be to ask yourself one question
What do I want in life?
Is it Happiness? Is it something else
Focus on it. Set goals for it. Put targets to measure your emotional improvements.
Prioritize it over anything.
El haya kolaha challenges
When there is a will there’s a way.
Sometimes you need to stretch your capacities and sharpen your strength. When we are tested in life, it is to exactly do so; to mould us into stronger individuals.
Because if life is smooth how will you be challenged to improve as a person?
I hope this helps ya Ally.
Eslam’s Achievements Since Jan 2012
Today we stand proud of his achievements. A true hero and inspiration for all Egyptians and trauma victims.
Known as “TheSuperAdaptive” here are some of his accomplishments below since the 2012 accident:-
- Gold medals, & the fastest swimmer in the National Championship – Egypt, for (7) consecutive years “2013-2019”
- Bronze medals, 2 medals in Madrid, 2015
- Silver medal, The International Swimming Championship – Berlin, 2017
- The first Egyptian with disability to compete in IronMan triathlon – Portugal September 2017
- First place ELFIT Reebok 2017, October 2017
- Fifth worldwide, First across Arab and Africa in World Para Swimming Championship – Mexico, December 2017
- Achieving the 1st place, Sheffield World Para Swimming – World Series – May 2018
- Egypt’s ambassador 2016 Represented Egypt in several international conferences in the USA & UK.
- The fittest adaptive athlete in Egypt after the introduction of cross-fit for para athletes in Egypt to inspire and empower people with different abilities. He won the annual cross-fit competition in Egypt ElFit for 2 consecutive years 2017 & 2018.
On behalf of Empower Mag, we’d like to thank Eslam for his motivational contribution to address trauma victims through his experiences battling the stereotypical stigma of people with disabilities.
Please let us know who you would like us interview next in our BreakTheSilence Interview Series!
For inquiries, you can reach us at [email protected].