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Like mother, like son...judo runs through this family’s veins

It’s more than just a mother-and-son relationship — with Shirin Farag’s coaching, Tarek Elmayergi, wearing his most recent gold medal, has become one of the top judokas in Canada, routinely beating athletes five years his senior. (AVI SAPER)

Considering how his parents first met, it should hardly be a surprise that Tarek Elmayergi has become one of the best young judokas in the country.


Basil Elmayergi was visiting relatives in Egypt in 1987 when he found himself in the same judo club as Shirin Farag, a member of the Egyptian national team.


Fast-forward 23 years, and the couple is living in Southdale, married with five children — four boys who do judo, and a girl who doesn’t.


The second oldest son, 15-year-old Tarek, has been training under his mother’s guidance at the University of Winnipeg Judo Club since he was seven. At 5-foot-6 and 264 pounds, he competes in the 100-plus kilogram weight class, the heaviest in the sport.


At this summer’s Canadian junior championship, Elmayergi won silver medals in both the under-17 and under-20 age categories. A year earlier, he captured gold in the under-15 competition.


Most recently, he came home from Montreal with a gold medal in the under-20 division of the Quebec Open International Judo Tournament.


With all this success — made obvious by the wall in the family’s basement covered by medals and trophies he and his older brother have won — Elmayergi is happy to have his mother as his coach.


"It’s easier for me to understand what she’s doing than it would be with another coach," he said. "I know that she knows what she’s talking about. Plus I can learn stuff at home, too."


Farag, who won gold medals for Egypt in African, Francophone and Arabic championships, believes she can help her son the most with the mental side of the sport.


"He’s doing everything I was doing when I was young," she said. "Where I can make a difference is before a competition… I can talk to him in the car and the house. At the competition, I can get him mentally prepared and ready to win."


During the fall, Elmayergi’s judo training decreases in intensity as he plays nose tackle for the Churchill Bulldogs football team.


"I do judo three times a week, about 10 hours, plus about four hours of weight training," said Elmayergi, a member of this past summer’s under-16 provincial football team who hopes to land a university football scholarship.


When football season is over, Elmayergi will return to his regular regimen of 20 to 22 hours a week of judo training. He says the long hours and hard work are made worth it by the thrills he gets in competition.


"The travelling and the fighting in competitions are the payoff," he said.


The next big payoff will come next March, when Elmayergi will represent Canada at the International Masters competition in Bremen, Germany.


He hopes that event will be a springboard to many more international competitions, and eventually an Olympic Games.


"He’s going to the Olympics," said Farag, as if the only question is whether it will be the 2016 or 2020 Games. "This is what I saw for him when he was nine years old."

avi.saper@canstarnews.com

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