CAIRO – Nationally ranked bodybuilder Ali el-Sharkawy trains in the evenings, but only after the 29-year-old has spent the morning collecting rubbish to support himself through his sporting career.
Although he has won accolades including two bronze medals at national championships, like many other Egyptian athletes practicing individual sports, he has been unable to secure funding or external support.
Instead, he uses a horse-drawn cart to collect waste and recycling across Gharbia, his hometown in Egypt’s Nile delta, making up to $6.59 per day.
“I wish there were better options,” Sharkawy told Reuters.
Sharkawy says he has not found state support for his bodybuilding career and that most funding is used for higher profile team sports like soccer.
Despite the limitations to his training regime, he takes inspiration from Mamdouh Elssbiay, known as “Big Ramy”, a celebrated Egyptian bodybuilder who won the Mr Olympia title in both 2020 and 2021.
Sharkawy’s coach, Mostafa el-Tamimi, said Sharkawy found his own success soon after starting training.
“He is seeking to participate in an international championship, but a bodybuilding career needs support and funding to provide nutrition,” he said.