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Obituary: Egypt's Esther
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 10 - 09 - 2009

Egypt's Esther
Sophie Sarwat (1938-2009)
Sophie Sarwat, who introduced synchronised swimming in Egypt and was known as the 'Esther Williams of the East', passed away on Friday 4 September at age 71.
In Al-Ahram Weekly, Sarwat launched the sports page from the newspaper's inception.
From 1990-1991 Sarwat was in charge of the sports page, writing and editing sports stories. She was never bias, never allocating more space for her beloved sport of synchronised swimming nor did she use the page as a tool to promote the sport. She was balanced in what should be published by allocating space to both popular sports and highlighting the sports that were not very well known. In Focus was a regular piece in which Sarwat would cover male and female champions who despite their achievements remained under the media radar. The In Focus section remained a gate in which successful athletes were introduced to the world even after Sarwat decided to quit the job and return to sports as an official and coach.
A graduate of the American University in Cairo, she spoke to the magazine AUC Today last year, describing the thousands she had coached since the 1950's as her "synchro family."
In December 2004, Sarwat received the Excellence in Sport Award from the International Olympic Committee for her lifelong commitment to sports and for establishing and improving synchronised swimming in Egypt.
President and founder of the Synchro Friends Society, which seeks to preserve the sport, Sarwat said the Olympics recognition is an honor. "I'm recognised abroad because synchronised swimming is part of the Olympics now. However, it still hasn't realised its full potential in Egypt," she added.
Despite practicing swimming, diving, squash, tennis and basketball, synchronised swimming remained her true sporting passion.
Sarwat was a board member of the Egyptian Swimming Federation and chair of the Egyptian Technical Synchronised Swimming Committee (TSSC). In addition, she was vice chair of the International TSSC and received both the silver and gold Federation Internationale Nation Amateur pins for her dedication to synchronized swimming.
Sarwat also served as an international judge, attended six Olympic Games and lectured in many parts of the world.
Years before she died, Sarwat took on another sport, bridge, joining the Egyptian ladies' national team.
She was also a member of the Egyptian Association for Environment and Community Services.
"I can't play sports anymore but I love the challenge of competition," Sarwat said in a recent interview. "Bridge is a mental game that gives me that thrill."
Apart from sports, Sarwat tried acting in the fifties when she was just starting to become famous. She acted in only one movie, playing the daughter of superstar Faten Hamama in Bein Al-Atlal or Between the Dunes, an Egyptian classic.
By Inas Mazhar

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