So you think you know Nouran Gohar?

Fram at the keyboard

So you think you know Nouran Gohar… You know her as the Terminator. You know her as Hardest Hitter evah. You’ve seen her involved in controversial battles. Of course.

But for example, did you know that Nouran is fluent in French, and has got a very strong sense of humour in three languages? Did you know that she refused to leave Egypt to study abroad or play for other teams, but changed her life completely for love? Nouran is like an Iceberg, so much more so see that what catches the eye…


First time I saw Nouran, I was sitting watching the first round of the Women’s World’s in Karim Darwish Wadi Degla Maadi’s on the glass court, Nour El Sherbini, one of the hot favourites for the title, along with Nicol David and Raneem El Welily.

Against her, a skinny young kid, 17, but looking more like 13, small build. I probably had seen her before in the juniors, but I didn’t remember her at all.  58 minutes later, Nouran Gohar – I was never to forget her name – in her first-ever appearance in the World event, had kicked out the #4 seed 11-6, 12-10, 4-11, 13-11.

The shock was enormous. Karim Darwish was flying, and her coach, Omar Abdel Aziz, was jumping up and down as only him knows how. Mash’Allah… And even if Nouran lost in the next round against Living Egyptian Goddess Omneya Abdel Kawy, her reputation was set: Nouran was going to write a few pages of Egyptian Squash.

Hitting so hard

Of course, the first thing one noticed at the time was her hitting. Well her blasting through the glasswall more like. How could such a small-looking young girl hit that hard??

“When I started playing” explains Nouran, “my main coach was Mohamed Medhat. He was known to be as one of the hardest hitters on Tour during his career, he always had a really good technique as well and he passed it onto me.

“As you mentioned, I’m not big, and yet, I can hit very hard: that’s the technique, but also, and maybe not a lot of people realise that I’ve spent hours and hours and hours of solo playing, just driving the ball, driving the ball, driving the ball, from a very young age.”

But it was not just about hard-hitting. It was also about tactics and ball placement.

“I was more focused on the technique than on the tactics of the game” she smiles. “I thought if you have a good technique, everything else will be easier. You can’t change your technique at 16, 17 years old, so you need to have a clean strike of the ball, that way, all the power is generated in the right direction, you’re not wasting any energy.

“The power doesn’t just come from the arm; it’s about the striking point, it’s you use your core as well, the way you bend before you hit the shot. Power is the result of purely hard work!é

I remember at the time the comments from a few people in Egypt. She was considered as “doing too much”. She would work endlessly, on her own, for hours on end. And that didn’t make her very popular at the time. So, talented? Or just an immense hard working individual..

“I would say I always had determination and a work ethic, since a very young age. I think that’s something I’ve always been, and I think that’s a talent in itself being able to push yourself every day, wake up every day with the same determination, focus and having a goal that you just wanna pursue every day.

“So I think this kind of attitude I had from a very young age is why maybe they thought I was very mature compared to my age. For example, I would also do my mobility stuff stretching after training. You don’t really see it 15 years old doing this, you know, I was trying to be as professional as possible from a very young age and that’s something that really helped me I think.”

Ok, what it the other side of the coin? What would be Nouran’s weakness then? Well, not sure there is one to be honest. Maybe her willingness to always improve? To never be satisfied with her achievements?

“There is something that might be considered a weakness, I guess: I never rest, I just want to evolve as a player, and I’m always working on getting better – although I’m not going to say precisely what I am working on at the moment.

“You know, the top ten players all hit the ball well, they all move well and the level at the moment is incredible. The World Team Champs last December was just crazy, the level of the players I mean.

“So it’s all about fine details and really paying attention to the very, very little detail, maybe it’s it’s a slight movement that you do taking off to go and play the ball, maybe it’s something that was your technique. It says like A1 centimetre difference of how you hold your racket. These fine details. I think it’s something that I’m working on Because it makes a huge difference, like with a small detail.

“We play like maybe 12, 14 tournaments a year; between every tournament, we only have a week or 10 days and you don’t have time to make huge changes. But sometimes in just a week or 10 days, you can see a completely different layer going to the next framework because some small adjustments were made and they can be on the mental side as well. That’s what people don’t see.

The Big Bang

Nouran loves her comfort zone – who doesn’t? But she particularly needs it to perform. And she loved her way of life. Squash, family, mum, dad, two brothers, training with Abdel Aziz and Karim Darwish in Wadi Degla.

“In Egypt, I felt I was way too comfortable. I had everything ready for me. I had the I’ve been doing this exact same thing for 15 years. So at some point you need something new to see some difference. Keep on putting the same input you’re going to keep on having the same.

And it’s a bit funny because I actually got offered multiple scholarships as any good junior player to go on to study in the US. But then obviously I didn’t wanna do it like I didn’t want to. I love Egypt. I love my family. I’m very, very close to my mom. We have such a strong connection. And it was just something very hard for me to decide at that age I would say.

“And but then I met Ziad, it was a case of that’s the person you wanna spend the rest of your life with! And I think it was hard, for both of us, both on a personal level, but also on a professional level, we had to make that choice and move abroad.”

God works in mysterious ways. She had to make that move right at the time she felt she HAD to change something in her game.

“At that time, I felt I was playing well, but I realised I needed something extra in my game, maybe on a mental side of things, someone to help me read the game better. And all that happened at the same time with my relationship with Ziad. So it was just like I was put in a situation where I had to decide to move to the US.”

Difficult, really difficult changes…

It was not an easy decision, and it was certainly not an easy day-to-day life at the start. She was coming from a lovely warm and comfy cocoon, where “everybody knew her name” to a place where she knew what, two people??

“I knew no one like literally no one, maybe 2-3 people” she recalls, Rodney Martin, Zach Alexander and that’s it. And my fitness coach. I knew no one else. I didn’t have my family, which I’m very close to. I don’t have my comfort zone.

“But I knew that in order for me to develop, not only as a player, I need to grow as a person as well, and that’s what I did. I had two options: either to collapse because too much solitude and loneliness, or organise a new way of life.”

A married woman

So, Nouran was now married, and independent. Change of scene of course.

“I was living with my parents. I’ve never lived by myself and my husband. Ziad is a professional athlete as well, which is nice, we have a very nice lifestyle, of course. But at the same time, it requires a lot of travelling, and I can find myself sometimes staying a lot by myself at home and just training. And it’s it’s tough and people don’t see but then it I think that helped me evolve as a human being as well.

Still, I was very excited to be living with someone. I loved being independent, and having my own routine. I’m also a person who likes to keep things for herself, not in a bad way. I mean like to Keep my to have to have y own training, to be very focused on what I do.

Rebuilding her team

“People who know me know I like my comfort zone. I want to keep the same people around me. It’s very hard for me to trust someone or to include someone new in the team, I would say. But once I trust them, I can do anything for them, you know? I don’t get very close to someone but one but if I get It’s a done story.

“But the move meant I had to reorganise my whole way of working. I had to find solutions. I was living in another country. So, obviously, I needed to have a team here.

“I can’t work virtually with people. I need to have my team with me, I need that connection with my coach. When Ziad and I decided on where to live, I actually spent two weeks here with Rodney in Greenwich (Connecticut), and something clicked I felt good, I actually felt at the time that’s what I needed.

Rodney Martin on coaching: “Everyone has little idiosyncrasies. Do not change those if they don’t affect the outcome.”


New coach, Old Coach?

Her association with lifetime Omar Abdel Aziz came to an end as she started to work with Rodney Martin in the US, but Nouran is adamant it wasn’t her decision.

“Just to clarify things, I was still with my old coach. I just added something to my team.

I didn’t change my team , I didn’t want to change anything. I just wanted to add something to my team, to my game.

But Omar thought it was best for us to go our separate ways when I moved.”

New Team

Imagine my face in June when I saw Haitham Effat – coach to Hania for years – appearing in Nouran’s corner, while Omar Abdel Aziz, formelly coaching Nouran, was advising Hania… Are you confused? You will be…ha! How did the move happen I wondered.

“Well, just before the CIB World Finals, Rod couldn’t make it, so we decided that it would be a good idea for me to work with Haitham, who happened to be in Egypt as well, and to give it a try as I didn’t want to be by myself and I need someone by my side during the Finals big matches.

“People don’t know that Haitham used to coach me when I was little, like when I was maybe 13, 14 years old, even if at the time, it didn’t click. But it sure clicked this time round!

“I think it’s the greatest thing to be coached by the coach of one of your opponents because he’s the one who studied me the most, and he knows my weaknesses more than anyone else! I always had huge, huge respect to Haitham, even before he coached me. I always thought he’s he’s one of the best mind minds and he’s very fair, very calm, He loves the game.”

So, Haitham and Rod are now part of Nouran’s team in the US.

“Obviously, Rod is the one I’m spending more time with because we’re based here in Connecticut. Rod and I “clicked” because I feel we are the same sort of person. He looks very tough but he is such a nice guy, such a kind person, and people rarely see that. He brings intensity to my training, and he also focuses a lot on the technical part of the game and the fluidity of my movement.

“But sometimes it helps to have this Egyptian flavour because at the end of the day, I play with Egyptian opponents, my main competitors are Egyptians, and then he knows like the story, he knows the history, he knows the people, he knows the mental side of us in Egypt. So sometimes it’s good to have someone who lives this and understands this.”

“Having both in my corner was a good move for me and I’m thrilled it is working out for us.”



Did the move, the sacrifices, the changes paid off?

“Yes, definitely. I think I had the most incredible season, even if the last two seasons were great as well,

“I was surprised to be honest, I reached 9 finals it was something that wasn’t achieved by someone else except Nicol, and as we know, Nicol has achieved unbelievable stuff. So to be on the same level than Nicol, was something huge for me.”


As we know, Nouran has been away from the competition for a while now with a tear in her foot, since Paris in fact.

It was not the first time she had trouble with that part of her foot, mind. I remember her having to stop during an Egyptian Nationals final against Raneem for trouble with the same injury in February 2020, and then having to forfeit a match a few weeks later in the BlackBall round three against Nada Abbas.

“I have a tear in my plantar fascia which was approximately  9 millimetres. I had some worries in the same area a few years ago, it was not as bad as this one for sure.

The good part is I am recovering, and the tear is getting smaller, so that’s a good sign, obviously.

Unfortunately, I’m missing a few tournaments, but I am on my way to recovery for sure.”

Be yourself

As I close this article, there is one point we talked about with Nouran. She was involved with a few “heated” matches recently. She feels very strongly about the fact she is only reacting to what’s done to her, and that she doesn’t want to make a show of herself on social media.

“I always smile when I see nasty comments about me on social media. If everybody loved you, I guess there would be something not right with you, don’t you think? Still, I don’t accept disrespect.

“At the end of the day, everyone wants to win, but everyone has their ways of achieving it. I always like to keep it ethical, but I don’t want to judge people or to even criticise them if they choose another way.

“I can easily go online, do a small video and talk trash about a player. That’s the easiest thing to do. And when you don’t lower yourself to doing so, people assume you feel ashamed or guilty. From my point of view, not splashing on social media is showing strength because one doesn’t need to justify oneself.

“I was raised that way and I think my parents did a great job raising me, so I don’t want to do anything that would make them ashamed of me.

Incredibly, Nouran operates like the refs. They don’t see this player or that player. They see players moving on the court. Nouran just focuses on herself once she steps on court.

When I’m on court, I only see myself. I don’t see any other. And that’s what people sometimes don’t like about me, I don’t show emotions, because I’m just focused on me and the ball. My opponent is a “factor X”, it’s not Hania, it’s not Nour, it’s not Amanda.

“You know, Fram, Squash, at the end of the day, is just a game. It’s not your entire life. After a few years, your sporting career is going to end. We’re going to retire. Nothing is going to be left It’s only the way you dealt with the situations and how you fought. If you are good with yourself, you will feel you have achieved well, and you’ll be able to sleep in peace. Otherwise, you are going to keep being miserable, you’re never going to be satisfied.”

“Do your own.  Make your own story. Be your own hero. Have your own achievements, have your own character. Don’t think about someone else. Just be you.”

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