SOMA Spotlight: Moatazbellah Abdelkarem, Arabian Games Gold Medal Fencer & NJFA Coach

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Moatazbellah Abdelkarem

Name: Moatazbellah Abdelkarem (my students call me Moataz)

Where are you from?

I lived in Egypt my whole life before coming to the U.S. for work in 2018. 

What brought you to Maplewood/South Orange?

I was here for an international fencing camp, and I met Coach Frank Mustilli. He offered me the chance to work with him as a coach full time at the New Jersey Fencing Alliance, and I was more than happy to take the opportunity. 

When did you start fencing?

I started fencing when I was eight years old. I saw a group of kids practicing one day and decided to try it. I had great coaches who made me fall in love with the sport. My fellow fencers were also super supportive, which helped me create a great community through the sport. 

What do you view as your greatest accomplishment as a fencer?

My greatest accomplishment was getting a gold medal in the Arabian Games. They’re like the Olympic games for Arab countries. It was a difficult tournament, and I worked very hard to win. 

How did you start coaching? 

I started coaching in Egypt after I stopped fencing competitively around 2012-2013. My club offered me a job to stay with them as a coach after I stopped competing. I jumped at the opportunity because fencing has always been the most important thing in my life. 

What are your goals as a coach?

As a coach, I want to have a good, strong group of students, and to have a good relationship with my students. Of course, I want to be an Olympic coach. Everybody dreams of being able to coach someone to the Olympics. 

When has a student made you feel the most proud?

When I see my students fighting on the strip to win, I feel proud. Being able to watch my students grow both physically and mentally in the sport is amazing. 

This year, seeing the high schoolers that I coached get second in the state championships was a great accomplishment for me as a coach. 

Do you plan to stay in the U.S.?

Yes. I would like to live here in the long term. 

What do you like most about Maplewood/South Orange?

The people here are very nice and friendly. It’s a really nice area location wise. You have access to everything here; it’s just a really nice town. 

Where’s your favorite place to eat in town?

My favorite place to get food in town is HLS. Their wraps and juice are really good. 

Would you ever consider living in Maplewood/South Orange?

If I had the opportunity to, I would be happy to live here. It’d be a great place to put my daughter through school and a great environment to grow up in. 

How do you like the new NJFA digs/location?

I like it. I’m very thankful that the church and Father Jim were so generous to give us a space. It’s great that we have the opportunity to keep building champions in Maplewood. 

CHS Fencing had a great year (particularly girls). Do you take pride in that? How did you help attain their goals?

I worked with the girls epee team several times a week helping them with their technique and athleticism. I put in a lot of effort to make sure I was helping the girls achieve their full potential and keep their spirits high. I’m proud to be their coach and they are a great group of kids. 

You were separated from your family for several years and recently reunited. How does it feel to finally see them again?

It was something I anticipated for a long time. I was so happy to be back with them again even if my daughter is a bit too noisy at times!

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