Referee Sarah Gamal will make history as the first Arab and African woman to officiate at the Tokyo Olympics when 3-on-3 basketball makes its debut.
Gamal stands tall among the high-flying male players at Alexandria United Club, a powerhouse of Egyptian basketball with a rowdy fan base, wearing a black veil emblazoned with a sports company's logo.
"From the start of my journey as a referee, I haven't heard one negative comment or faced any obstacles to me being a veiled woman. The veil for me is normal and doesn't cause any problems," the 32-year-old told a portal.
In 2017, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) modified its rules to allow players to wear the hijab (veil) in some circumstances.
Until being introduced to the Tokyo Olympic programme in 2017, FIBA adopted the 3-on-3 rivalry common on public courts around the world to draw a younger, foreign fan base. In contrast to the conventional end-to-end full-court play in the five versus five game, games are played on a half court with one basket. A team must score 21 points or outscore their opponents in two 10-minute halves to win.
Gamal has blazed a path for aspiring female referees and players in the past, including at the FIBA World Youth Cup in Belarus in 2018, and the African Women's Championship in 2017.
She is not afraid of officiating male athletes on hardwood courts, despite working in a male-dominated industry as a civil engineer in Alexandria. "I have refereed men's games in the past and I have had a lot of success running them which garnered the confidence of Egypt's refereeing committee... It's the usual for me," she said.
She's excited to put her talents and experience on display at the Olympics.
Gamal started as a player and switched to refereeing at 16 because she had a great passion for the sport and a deeper understanding of the rules.
"My family has been completely supportive," she added.
On being asked if she is nervous about her stint at the Olympics, she explained, "Being the first Arab and African woman refereeing 3-on-3 games at the Olympics is a positive. There's no pressure on me and I am confident that this step will pave the way for other Arab and African women referees.”
Gamal has her sights set on her next goals as she prepares to take the court in Tokyo. "I want to make it to the men and women's World Cups and to maintain the trust the international body has put in me so far," she signs off.