The 2020 Summer Olympic Games have finally kicked off in Tokyo, after a yearlong delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid numerous restrictions during the games, athletes will be tested for the coronavirus frequently, and fans won’t be allowed to attend competitions in person.
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The opening ceremony was complete with fireworks, nods to Japan’s history and culture and a drone display in the night sky. And tennis star Naomi Osaka concluded the festivities by lighting the Olympic cauldron atop a peak inspired by Mount Fuji.
For many athletes, this will be their first Olympic games. But for others, this will certainly not be their first rodeo.
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For Hungarian fencer Aida Mohamed, this will be her 7th Olympic Games — a record for female athletes in her country. Her first time competing in the Olympics was back in 1996 in Atlanta.
She spoke with The World's host Marco Werman about what it was like for her then and now.
Listen to the full interview to hear the whole discussion.
Marco Werman: So, Aida, this will be your seventh time competing in the Olympics. What do these games mean for you specifically?
Aida Mohamed: Yes, this is the seventh. And I can see in Hungary, this is a record breaker. So, I'm very proud. And, you know, if they write your name in the record book, it's always a great thing. I know my friends and family are very proud of me and happy, which means a lot to me. It's a great feeling.
After so many trips to the Olympics, even one like this in Tokyo that is so unusual, has it ever started to feel routine?
It never feels routine. Even [during] my last tournament, I was excited [in the same way] as my first tournament, and I can say the same for the Olympic Games. Only one thing changed, it's that I'm more experienced, this is number one. And the second, that I'm training harder than ever, because, I can say [at] my age, I have to keep up with the younger ones. So, I even put [in] more hours than I would before.
Well, you make a good point. You've been doing this for a while. The first time competing in the Olympics was in 1996 in Atlanta, which feels like a lifetime ago. What do you remember from those first Olympic Games that you attended?
I remember I was one of the youngest team members. Everything was so big and so bright. I remember the audience, so many people. And in fencing, usually you don't get as many visitors or spectators. I remember in the Olympic Games, it was fully packed and that was a great thing to compete under those circumstances. Now in Tokyo, [it] will be very empty.
How do you feel about that?
I just have to keep the crowd there. I have to think that, you know, there will be people sitting around and cheering for me. But I think it makes a big difference feeling-wise. And it just always helps when someone is cheering for you, when you can hear the people screaming and [the] noise. That's always a great thing.
Yeah, it's that energy that you get. I'm curious how you got into fencing in the first place, Aida. How old were you? What drew you to the sport?
I was 9-years-old in elementary school, and [at] that time, my coach from my old club came to school and [was] looking for kids, selecting [them]. I remember very clearly that I had to [do] some exercise, but [at] that time I was a really shy little girl. And I was so excited that I couldn't [do the exercise properly]. But even [at] that time, I was fast and I was good in the gymnastics lesson. And my school teacher advised me to go and start with the others. My coach, Antal Solti, has been my coach 35 years.
Right, he's been with you the whole time. What has he meant to you?
Well, he's more than a coach, for sure. He was kind of like a father. I always say he was always checking [on me], not only in sports. He would tell me what to do, what not to do, but he was always paying attention to my school[ing]. So, I remember those days when he would ask everybody, "OK bring your notes from school." He would have some words if you didn't have the right notes. So he would say, "OK, now you have to study harder. There's no excuse." But he was always just like a father. If I had any problem, even nowadays, I could tell him and I could discuss [it] with him. He was always a very strict man, and loud. But if I had any problem, I could always go to him and share. And I remember when training, that my girlfriends or my fencing mates, you know, somebody would cry on his shoulder because of love problems, somebody would cry because of school problems, I was crying for some other problems. And I think that's what made him really unique.
So, the seventh Olympic Games for you — the first Hungarian to do this, ever. How do you want to be remembered?
I just hope that people will remember me as an example of my hard work, not by the numbers, but as somebody who enjoyed fencing. And many times, I heard that people love my fencing style and my techniques. Just remember there's a big fighter.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.AP contributed to this report.