Published on 27 Jun 2024

Paths to Paris: Azmy Mehelba reflects on an imminent fourth Olympic skeet appearance and unique brotherly achievements with Abdel Aziz


Egypt’s Azmy Mehelba, 33, is heading for his fourth Olympics in Paris after competing at London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. Since the latter Games he has won world gold and bronze in skeet men and World Cup Final silver where he lost a classic shoot-off 26-25. He and his elder brother Abdel Aziz, 35, who competes in trap, won respective silver and gold at the 2023 World Cup Final in Doha.

Since your most recent and third Olympic appearance in Tokyo you have shown outstanding consistency in the World Championships, winning gold in 2022 and bronze last year. How encouraging is this for your Olympic prospects?

I think nothing is better than qualifying for the Olympic Games as a world champion as it’s much more harder than qualifying through continental championships and also because you are competing against the strongest shooters in all the world.

So for sure it has a very positive feeling and it gives me more confidence and motivation for the Olympic Games. Actually all my three world championship medals are very special for me.

My bronze in Granada 2014 was my first one and I was just 23 years old and I took the quota for Rio 2016. Gold in Osijek 2022 was super special also because  became world champion and back to world No.1 and took my quota for Paris 2024. Bronze in Baku 2023 was very special because in this competition I managed to equal the qualifying world record of 125/125. 


Is your Paris 2024 quota place confirmed by your federation? How proud will you be to contest a fourth Olympics?

Yes, it was confirmed from the moment I won the quota. It makes me very proud also that I was the first athlete to qualify to the Paris and Rio Olympic Games in all the sports in my country so it always makes me very proud but also gives me huge responsibility towards my country.  


Has your victory at your home World Cup in Cairo at the start of 2024 given you additional confidence about your form in Olympic year?

Yes of course my victory in the Cairo World Cup was a very important medal in my career and it wasn't easy at all because competing in your home country always has high pressure. Also the weather conditions were tough so to be able to grab the gold in such circumstances shows how strong I am technically and mentally which gives me more confidence. 


You won silver at the 2023 Doha World Cup Final after losing an epic shoot off 26-25 to Denmark’s Emil Petersen. How do you remember this now? Is the main feeling one of frustration, or are you glad to have been involved in a piece of shooting sport history.

No - maybe I looked like this but deep inside I wasn't frustrated because I always believe that in sports sometimes you win and sometimes not, and you have to accept this fact. But the main important thing is that I keep on learning and working harder. Immediately after this competition I started to work with my coach on some aspects and we made some improvements.

It’s nice to be involved in a piece of shooting sport history, for sure. In the 2014 World Cup final in Gabala I lost a shoot-off for gold 22-21. But on the other hand I have won a lot of very long shoot-offs before against strong shooters in critical moments.

So for me there is nothing called losing – it’s either winning or learning. And I believe that this World Cup final gold medal will come sooner or later and will keep working hard for it. 


On the same day you took silver in Doha your brother Abdel Aziz earned gold in the trap men. Do you two help each other in training? How does it feel to have a brother operating at the same elite level in shooting sport, and how come you do different events?!

Yeah, that made me very happy and I immediately felt as if I won gold that day. I was really very, very happy and I think this is the real piece of shooting sport history - two brothers win medals together in the same competition in trap and skeet.

I think it never happened before and we have managed to do it twice, once in the 2021 World Cup in Lonato where I won gold and he won bronze, and in the World Cup final Doha 2023 we got silver and gold, so I think it’s something for the books.

We help each other a lot as we train together every day in the same shooting range. It’s very nice when you have a brother on the same level and you know that he has very high experience and very high knowledge in shooting sport and also in equipment. You trust him so much and you know that he really cares about you so it’s helpful. And we always sit together and share our thoughts about a lot of stuff in shooting sport. 

The credit of doing different event goes to my father. People always ask me and my brother why I shoot skeet and he trap and not the opposite. But thanks to my father he is the one who let each of us start shooting when we were eight years old. He had a very strong vision to put me in skeet and my brother in trap because he was a very experienced shooter also and understood shooting very well.


How proud are you to maintain Egypt’s shooting sport tradition – and what are the prospects for the sport in your country in the next few years?

I am really very proud and happy because before my medals Egypt never won any medals in any ISSF competitions. Since the federation was created it didn't have any big achievements before and the sport was not that famous in Egypt. But when I started to win in 2014 and so on people started to talk about shooting sport more and the media started to focus and talk more on shooting sport due to my achievements.

Now I have 15 different medals in World Championships, World Cup finals and World Cups. Also the achievements of brother in trap was totally something new for trap shooting in Egypt.

I became one of the most successful athletes in all the sports in Egypt, the sport became famous, the federation started to be stronger and we have now a very huge and new complex for shotgun, pistol and rifle in the new capital in Cairo.

It has beautiful ranges and we have already organised a lot of big international competitions there in the last couple of years. We will organise World Championships in all events in November 2025 so I’m very proud and happy that I am part of this huge success of shooting sport in Egypt.

I’m dedicated to this sport, my family is dedicated to this sport, and I will always do my best to make the sport grow in Egypt and outside Egypt. 


 What started you in shooting and what is most satisfying about it?

My father taught me and my brother how to hold the gun, how to shoot, he taught us to have big dreams, how to fight for our goals, how to be strong mentally and how to become champions.

He supported us endlessly in all the ways since the beginning until now and he is the main reason behind all my success and behind everything me and my brother achieved in our lives. I would love to thank him for his endless support and I hope that I make him a proud father. 

There are a lot of things that are satisfying about it but the biggest thing for me is the adrenaline and the feeling of the pressure and the joy competition brings. I love adrenaline and I love the feeling of the pressure while competing on very high level - that feeling that makes you shine and perform at your best. In my opinion there is nothing in life that can gives such very special and unique feelings. 


What has been your biggest challenge so far in your career?

The biggest challenge is how to always stay motivated and wake up every day with the same hunger and with the same goals and having the will to work on myself to get better every day, to keep always performing better and better and to keep always on top because I believe not only in shooting sport but in all kind of sports it’s very hard to keep performing on very high level for a long period of time. 


Which is the toughest aspect of shooting sport – the physical or the mental?

Actually both the physical and the mental - I believe you must have a strong body to have a strong mind, and both are very important aspects in shooting sport. It’s not an easy sport and if you want to reach the highest level in it you must be ready and very strong physically and mentally. 


How is your Paris 2024 preparation going, and are you training regularly with your brother even though you have different events?

The preparations are going very well. I have been working hard with my coach Diego Gasperini. Now I’m having little rest and in a few days I’m going to Italy where he lives to start the last preparations for the Olympics. Whenever I am in Egypt my brother and I always train together.