BEIRUT: It took ten years for Aziza Sbeity to break the 100m sprint record, but had it not been for her passion and perseverance, she would have stopped immediately after her severe injury. Sbeity tells her story and her struggles to become the woman she is today.
Sbeity started her career in track and field in her final year of school. This decision came from a push from her sports coaches at school, which led her to go and train with Jamhour's athletics team.
During her first year of training at Jamhour, she won the Lebanese championship and was chosen to represent the national team in the Francophone games, which took place in Lebanon. The event gathered over 40 countries and included a bevy of other sports. This event encouraged her, even more, to take her passion in track and field to a whole new level.
“I felt positive vibes and good energy, it was astonishing to represent your country at home and since then, I became addicted to track and field,” she told Annahar.
She went on to study business management at the Lebanese American University. “My schedule was crazy, I used to train every day after classes from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m., and I only had Sundays off,” she said.
“I also travel around six times a year; in Egypt, I got second place in the junior Arab championship, and at the world junior championship in Canada, I was the only one to represent Lebanon.”
Soon after, Sbeity had a severe injury that took almost three years to overcome. At first, doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong, she said.
“After visiting the best doctors with no proper diagnosis, I started learning to live with the pain and to work around it, and although I was still practicing, I couldn’t actually sprint and compete in championships.”
Eventually, they figured out what was wrong, she had Hamstring Syndrome, a condition which cannot be cured.
Those affected can only learn to live with it.
After these many struggles, she started competing again. Some of her biggest achievements include participating in three senior world championships, meeting superstars like Usain Bolt.
In 2018, she broke the Lebanese 100m record by 0.09 seconds, recording a time of 11.75 seconds.
“I cried so much because my work finally paid off,” she said, crediting her "passion to overcome" her injuries.
Sbeity then spoke about the struggles faced by Lebanese athletes.
“In Lebanon, there isn’t much room for improvement, and we are sometimes stuck in a stalemate given the lack of support,” she told Annahar.
Sbeity also lamented both the federation and ministry of sports' shortcomings in providing financial support.
“We are trying to encourage women to participate in this sport, but another obstacle is the fact that universities don’t encourage it much,” Sbeity said. Universities in Lebanon don’t give scholarships or discounts for sports participants, which is common abroad.
There also hasn’t been much media coverage around her new Lebanese record, except for the occasional post on social media.
But what keeps Sbeity going is the support from her team, family and her coach. “My coach is a woman, which drew pushback since the sport is traditionally run by men. However, I chose wisely, because had it not been for her, I wouldn’t be who I am today” she said.
Sbeity’s goal is to attend the Olympic Games in 2020 in Tokyo. As for her career, she wants to continue her path in Psychology and maybe focus on youth and sports psychology to change the local sports culture.
“I want to do something for the entire country, and spread this culture across the world,” she told Annahar.
Welcome to “Naya”, the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment.
We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations-Naya editor, Sally Farhat:
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