Two Time National Champion: Ahmed Abdel Khalek '16

A round of applause is due for Ahmed Abdel Khalek for taking the College Squash Association's Men’s Individual national title twice and finishing his college squash career on a 66-match winning streak. Ahmed, a Bates College senior from Cairo, Egypt, was awarded his second national title last weekend after defeating Ryosei Kobayashi of Rochester 3-1 at the Chelsea Piers Athletic Club in Stamford, Connecticut. This second national title is not only a huge personal victory for Ahmed, but also for the members of the Bates community who have cheered for him every step of the way. 

 
To get a more clear picture about who Ahmed is both on and off the squash court, I had the opportunity to catch up with the national champion himself, along with his coach and several friends. Patrick Cosquer, the Bates Squash coach, described his experience with Ahmed in the following way. "In many ways, coaching and mentoring Ahmed is no different than coaching and mentoring any other student-athlete in my program, as most of our conversations and interactions have much more to do with personal, academic, social and behavioral issues in his life than they do squash. 99% of our conversations have nothing to do with him being the 2-time College Squash National Champion. With that being said, our conversations about squash and the preparation for his matches, especially later in the season, are very different from that of others in the program. Ahmed has given me and Bates Squash much more than I have given him and we have been fortunate to share 4 years together. He is the fiercest competitor I have ever coached and his will to win is unmatched and inspirational. We will be inextricably linked through our experiences here and I look forward to helping him succeed in life as an adult after Bates." 
 
 
Ahmed's close friends Mike Boornazian and Jack Edmiston further highlighted for me what makes him so fantastic off the squash court. Mike depicted how Ahmed offers words of encouragement whenever someone needs it and is always the first to congratulate others on their success. Immediately following his first national championship, Mike said that Ahmed went out of his way to congratulate the basketball team on making it to the Sweet Sixteen. In a conversation with Jack, he described for me how Ahmed celebrates his victories, yet consistently proves to be one of the most humble and hard working people you will ever meet. Even though Ahmed is recognized as a national champion, that's not what draws people to him. His outgoing personality and friendliness are what make him so well liked across campus. Both of them expressed how glad they were to call Ahmed a friend and that they couldn't be happier for him with his most recent national title. 
 
After talking with his coach and friends, I had a pretty good idea who this two time national champion/senior economics major was. Still though, I was curious to hear from Ahmed about his squash career and experiences at Bates. He gave me a multitude of responses and an insight into his hilarious personality. Here's a look at my exclusive interview with Ahmed: 
 
Tell me about your squash career: "Well initially I was a swimmer, but I hated every second of it. As a 7 year old, I had to wake up at 6AM to go to practice before school and after school there's practice again, so it was the definition of miserable. I didn't really want to do it anymore. At that time my cousin was on the squash pro tour. He told me I should try it. I did try it out, and there it started. I started when I was 9. I kept losing in the first round and would be very fortunate if I got to the second round. This kept happening until I was 14. I was about to quit because there was no point to continue. But I did thanks to my dad! He's the one who kept encouraging me to keep going until the top spot called my name and I became number 1 in the nation under 15. Great feeling to see all the hard work pay off at the point where you are really desperate and don't know what to do anymore."
 
What was your first thought when you woke up this morning? "I have to start working on capstone because otherwise I'm screwed. Or well, I already am screwed."

Why Bates? "The people here are unreal. It doesn't matter where you go to college, and in my view any place would be terrible if you didn't find your people. I visited Bates, and there were Andy Cannon and Jason Shrubb waiting for me. I had a great time with them and liked how contained the campus was, so I applied ED1. I knew the Econ department was pretty solid, but so is it in so many other schools. So to answer your question "why Bates?" I just fell in love with the people. I know it sounds cheesy, but it's the truth."
 
How did it feel to return back to Bates with your trophy? "Well to bring the trophy back to Bates last year was a great feeling! But to bring it back once more is pretty special. Honestly I don't think there is a word that explains how it feels. But I am happy I was able to make my dad proud! I did it for him." 
 
How did you prepare for nationals? "I was NOT prepared! I didn't work nearly as hard as I did last year. Last year I was on a very intense diet, waking up each morning at 6 to go work out and then go on to do squash solo session. At night I would go back to practice. I did everything right. This year I tried to balanced it out. I didn't work as hard, not because of anything, but because I wasn't even sure I would be playing nationals. I wasn't hungry enough to win, so I thought I should just call it a day and stay on campus. But as soon as I got on court for the first round, that hunger and willingness to win somehow came back, and that is the main reason why I was fortunate enough to win. I always think that if I train 70% and my willingness to win is 30%, then I won't be able to win. But If it is the other way around, my chances of winning are much higher. But it feels great to bring the trophy back to Bates and the boys."
 
What are some of your hobbies? "Singing, playing the drums, and making fun of Jack Edmiston!"
 
Guilty pleasure? "Spending too much money on steak and wine! I will never stop."
 
Something people don't know about you? "When I'm upset, I never show my face to anyone. I'm just not a big fan of the question: are you ok?"
 
Biggest pet peeve? "When someone holds the door for me when I am still 100 feet away. I mean you're so nice, but I am really not in a mood where I can sprint."
 
Something that always makes you happy? "When my sister calls me! She's a busy woman." 
 
What does a "day in the life of Ahmed" look like? "Well Rob DiFranco says that his motivation to wake up in the morning is to go to breakfast. I don't think that I have any motivation to wake up because I just love staying in bed. Sorry maybe I'm too honest. But let's start with waking up. As soon as I open my eyes, of course I look at my phone and switch between the three addictive apps for at least 45 minutes, so that's the reason why I miss breakfast. Then I go lift so when I get in a fight with Reeny I can kick his ass. Then it's time for a nice meal with the boys. So much fun in commons! After lunch, I usually debate whether I should go to class or not, but let me tell you that whenever I have lunch with mikey B and ask him "dude should I go to class or naah?" The answer is always one word "SKIP" and honestly that's what I always like to hear. Then in season there's always practice from 6-8 so after that I am dead! I get back with my teammates for dinner, and Caran tries to start a pepper flip, but he never landed it once, pathetic I know! Now it's library time for about 3-4 hrs, then Ahmy goes back to bed, but before sleeping, I have to watch at least one episode of How I Met Your Mother, GREAT Show."
 
If you could fly anywhere tomorrow, where would you go and why? "I would fly to Gouna, Red Sea! Why? It is simply a place where you can live the good life. You'll understand exactly what I mean when you visit Egypt."
 
Favorite Bates memory? "This just happened last weekend. I got back from nationals on Sunday night. Of course the first place I wanted to go was Mtn ave to chill with the boys. Once I got in, I found all of my friends waiting for me to celebrate my win! I didn't know anything about it. Once I got into the living room, the lights turned on, music started, and everyone was screaming. Needless to say bottles of champagne were all over the place."
 
What would you do if you won the lottery? "Donate money to Bates so they could build freaking squash courts on campus. Like C'mon!! Also I'd buy a 170-foot yacht and give the rest to the less fortunate people in Egypt."
 
If you could switch places with any celeb, who would it be and why? "My boy Leo! That guy is a savage!"
 
Describe some of your goals for the future: "I would like to work in finance for 15-20 years, then start my own clothing brand: ROBAHM. It will happen one day I promise."
 
What cheers you up when you're down? "As I told you, when I'm upset I don't show my face to people. So I just stay in my room, order pizza and wings and watch countless episodes of How I Met Your Mother. Jason Segel makes me laugh. He's a bro."
 
What's the best part about winning a national title? "Not letting my friends down! It makes me very thankful and want to work even harder when I am able to make my friends happy. Finally, huge shoutout to my boys in Mtn ave! Never would've done it without your support!"
 
 
Ahmed, thanks for being you and making Bates great!
I hope you realize how proud people are to have you as a classmate, teammate and friend.