At first sight, you wouldn’t be able to guess what Marwa Amri does for a living. Rocking a full-length dress with her hair open, the 27-year old looked completely at ease seated in the coffee shop of a five-star hotel.
At the 2016 Summer Olympics, wrestler, Sakshi Malik received all the adulation for her well-deserved bronze medal in the 58-kg category. But there was another woman who was standing beside her at the podium. Tunisia’s Marwa Amri won the other bronze medal in the same weight category.
In doing so, she became only the sixth athlete from Tunisia to ever win an Olympic medal but more importantly, she’s the first female from Africa to win a medal in wrestling. “Also, the first woman from the Arabic world”, she corrects me.
“I started wrestling when I was 11 years old. After I finished my classes in school, I used to go to a hall in my city and saw students were only wrestling and I really liked it”, she said.
Marwa began training for the quadrennial competition just two months before it was about to begin. “I’ve been working hard for the entire year but my training camp started in Sweden only two months before the competition. I knew one day I would get a medal”.
Amri will be part of the Pro Wrestling league which is scheduled to start from next month in India and she is raring to go. “Every day, I train for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening”.
The diminutive wrestler could easily give any guy in the gym a run for his money. “I can lift about 60-70 kgs. I only train with the boys. I don’t have woman sparring partners because I am so strong”.
But she makes it clear that the situation isn’t as bright as it seems. Marwa receives negligible support from the Tunisian government and has no sponsors yet. “When you get a medal, Tunisia will hopefully help me more now. The sports minister helps me during the camps”, she explains.
Apart from wrestling duties, Amri also has family responsibilities like any normal person. She helps them with whatever they need. Her father passed away when she was just 9 years old while her mother is a housewife. “I have two brothers and sisters but I am the eldest. If they need something, they call me not my mom”, she signs off with a smile.