From winning championships and competing to qualify for the Olympics, Wayne State redshirt senior sabre fencer Ziad Elsissy has accomplished a lot in his time around the sport of fencing. But if it weren't for a passing suggestion, his talent may have gone unnoticed.
Back in his hometown of Alexandria, Egypt, Elsissy developed a love for basketball. However, his parents suggested that he give fencing a try. While his love for basketball never disappeared, fencing started to grow on him.
"By the time I [started] fencing and competing and knowing more about the sport, I started liking it," said Elsissy.
After joining the Egyptian National Team, winning multiple championships and being able to compete in the 2010 Singapore Games, he began to focus more on fencing and since then, "It's been my career," he said.
Elsissy said that his decision to attend Wayne State came from a recommendation from Air Force fencing coach Abdel Salem, who knew WSU fencing coach Jerzy Radz. Prior to arriving in Detroit, Elsissy said he had no prior knowledge of the city.
"I literally looked up Detroit the day before my flight here," he said. "I was like, let me check out that place I'm going to and then I saw a lot of things like the bankruptcy and everything that happened to Detroit."
Despite that initial impression of the city, Elsissy said coming to Detroit sounded cool and he may come back to visit after college because he loves the city.
Elsissy said one of his biggest takeaways from his time at WSU is how the athletic department supported him when he had to choose between competing at the NCAA Midwest Regional for Wayne State or getting to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games for his home country.
"I went to Rob Fournier, our athletic director, and I told him that this competition would help me make the 2016 Olympic Games and it didn't take ten seconds before [he said] you go to the [qualifying tournament] for the Olympics," Elsissy said. "[Fournier said] we would love to add an Olympian to our history at Wayne State."
Elsissy said becoming the first WSU fencer since Slava Zingerman in 2009 to compete in the gold medal match at the NCAA Collegiate Championships last year was a way to show that he respected what Fournier did for him, and how school has helped him get closer to his goals.
In addition to his success in athletics, Elsissy has been named to the Athletic Director's Honor Roll (for student-athletes with a term GPA of 3.5+) six times during his time at Wayne State.
While his athletic and academic commitments leave little time for leisure, Elsissy said, "I'm putting that [type] of time into it because I really want to succeed at both of them and I thank God that I've been doing well [in] my career here, and I want to end it strong."
Elsissy is set to graduate in May with a degree in mechanical engineering. He said that being able to get his degree means a lot to him.
"It sums up five years of working hard, studying all night and practicing all day [and] trying to fit work into my schedule," said Elsissy. I don't know how I'm going to feel [walking across the stage], but believe me, it's a big thing."
After graduation, Elsissy said his main goal is focusing on making the 2020 Egyptian Olympic team and qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games, after narrowly missing making the 2016 Egyptian Olympic Team.