Shady El Nahas has learned perhaps the most important part of his sport – the mental preparation.
“Be confident in preparation but, humble in victory,” Shady El Nahas said. “After a victory you can enjoy it for 30 seconds; then it’s back to work.”
Nahas, 16, has his sights set in his chosen competition – judo.
“It’s not just about going to the Olympics or the Pan Am (Games). It’s about a medal,” he said. “Most people after they go to the Olympics, they tattoo it all over their bodies. They are satisfied with going and losing their first fight. (But) there is no point of going if you know you’re going to lose.”
Nahas is not alone in his desire to win at judo. His cousin, Youssef Youssef, 22, officially qualified for the Pan American games in 2015 by placing third in the Judo World Cup in Australia. On the podium for his last three international tournaments, and currently number one in the world in his weight class, Youssef claims he won’t be satisfied until Rio 2016.
Both boys train twice a day at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre on Morningside Avenue in Toronto – from 7 to 9 a.m. and again from 7 to 9 p.m.
Nahas, still in high school, says it’s difficult balancing school and practices, but admits Judo always comes first. Only a visit to the podium at the Judo Elite Eight tournament in January is separating him from a spot on the Canadian Pan Am Games team next summer.
“I miss school for Judo, but I don’t miss practice for school,” he said. “It’s tough, but you got to do what you got to do.”
Both Youssef and Nahas emigrated from Egypt when they were young. Youssef’s father, a former six-time African Judo Champion, started coaching him when Youssef was five. He hated it at first and wanted to quit.
Nahas, on the other hand, started Judo at age nine as a means of self-defence, to prevent being physically bullied in elementary school.
Nahas and Youssef credit Pedro Guesdes, their technical coach and director for Judo Ontario for much of their success. Guesdes says both of them aren’t ready for the Olympics yet.
“Nahas has a great potential. He is humble, but he has a lot of work to do,” Guesdes said. “Youssef … has changed a lot in terms of his behaviour, as a athlete, as a persons And this kind of change is allowing him to believe much more in himself and he is able to do things he can’t imagine.”
In preparation for Pan Am, Youssef has taken the year off school at George Brown College, where he studies Fitness and Lifestyle. They both say everything they do is somehow related to their goals. Guesdes says he sees great potential in their abilities.
“(Neither)of them are already there,” he added. “But they have to dream big because you are the size of your dreams.”