I'm Ingy El Refai, a 33 years old former Artistic swimmer from Egypt a mother of one daughter and a wife. At the age of 6 I started to take private Swimming lessons in Heliopolis sporting club one of the pioneer clubs in Egypt specially in Artistic Swimming. One year later my Swimming coach suggested that I should join the Synchronized Swimming team because I used to totally lose focus when the Synchro team turned on their music and I would just start to dance. So, at the age of 7 I joined the synchro team, I was the youngest among all my team so I was the one who would do all the lifts 😃 but growing up I become one of the strongest and I always took the most difficult parts in any lifts or platforms 🙈
I remember one day in our training sessions our coach asked us to put on the weights so 2 kilos on our hands and 5 kilos on our legs. Being the youngest and being so tiny I tried putting on the weights and found myself sitting on the bottom of the pool wondering what's going! Thankfully, all my teammates came to help and dragged me to the surface 🤣 I really didn't understand anything at this moment and that's how my love-hate relationship with sand weights was born.
I performed synchro for 14 years, training about 12 to 14 hours a day, competed in more than 40 national competitions and around 20 international competitions. I was performing solo, duet , team and in the last few years the combo was added to the synchro events. I have more than 60 medals, which I stopped counting at the age of 16. I joined the national team of Egypt for 6 years and was their team captain. I attended many International competitions during this time and ended up having to quit a year before the Olympics in Beijing 2008 due to a severe injury in my left knee.
Right after quitting I coached for 6 years and became an international referee for 8 years, all of which I did at the same time as having a career in Human Resource for 10 years in multinational companies. One day you’re “normal” and then suddenly, you’re sick.
During my last year as a referee, I started to get some weird symptoms and thought I was just exhausted from being overworked. This is when I was first diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease. The door was just slammed on my old life, I was in a dark place for years grieving some of the career and life dreams that I was forced to let go. This disease attacks my nervous system and muscles and it got to a point where, for 2 years, I was almost paralyzed and had lost the feeling in my legs and hands completely … it almost felt like I was wearing those sand weights again in my hands and legs but this time was really scary.
One day I woke up and I knew it wasn’t an option to stay there, so I sat back and accepted where I am today and what to expect for the future. And now, though my life is indeed different from how it used to be, it is once again fulfilling and active. Just because I was finally ok with who I am now. That alone isn’t a sentence I ever thought I’d be able to write again.
But I have to say I couldn't step out of it without the love, help and support of my family, friends and loved ones I owe it all to them. ❤ they are my true blessing.
So I did what was best, left my job and started swimming again for months trying to strengthen my very weak muscles and I started synchro once again to gain movements with my body. Since then synchro has become my remedy!
So, I've decided to follow my dream and I established the 1st synchro masters team in Egypt, making it possible for everyone to learn the beauty of this sport without any age restrictions. After 2 month I was able to join a show in an international Masters Swimming competition that was held in Egypt, for the first time, with my beautiful ladies age range was between 18 and 37. Even though they were all new to synchro, after 12 sessions they were able to perform in an international competition.
During the lockdown I also initiated 2 virtual international events one for the masters lead by the best coaches, ex-swimmers and masters from Egypt along with beautiful Italian and international guests. The second event was for the juniors and seniors lead by the Olympic Greek champion Evangelia Platanioti, just to keep them motivated and inspired during this difficult time.
I've also been nominated to join the Artistic Swimming Technical Committee in the Egyptian Swimming Federation and I was finally able to officially launch my first Online business NGETIC as an Online Fitness Coaching. The purpose of this business is to help raise awareness on the importance of sports to our mental and physical well being, in order to make healthy changes in a persons life. And, after a year and half of studying I was finally able to be a certified fitness instructor on top of being a full time mum, wife and synchro coach, it was extremely challenging but I've done it💪🏻
So let me introduce myself again I'm Ingy El Refai the 1st Egyptian Artistic Swimming Master, mom, wife and Fitness Instructor with an incurable auto-immune disease. It's a part of who I am but thanks to my love and passion for synchro it brought me back to life. I'm blessed, thankful and appreciating everything and every moment in my life.
December 2020 Artsy Ambassador