You’d be forgiven for not recognizing Sameh’s name from British squads, and that’s because until just a few months ago the 36-year-old was flying the flag for his native Egypt. He helped his country achieve Olympic qualification for the first time in 60 years – one of his proudest moments, he says – and he’s jumped at two World Championships. He was propelled into the spotlight when winning the Rolex Grand Slam at Spruce Meadows in 2018 and qualified for this year’s Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix.
But a dispute with Egypt’s federation over selection for Tokyo not only crushed Sameh’s Olympic dream but led to him switching allegiance. Having been based in Northern Ireland for the past decade with showjumper Joanne Sloan-Allen and her family, whom he describes as “his rock”, Team GB was the obvious choice and he’s been warmly welcomed. But the situation cast a dark cloud over what should have been a milestone year in Sameh’s rocketing career.
“It was the worst moment of my entire life,” reflects Sameh frankly, pointing to the hair he lost through those anxious times. “I still love my country but I also love people that support me and I’ve struggled with my federation for so long. You turn a blind eye and try to focus on your own thing, but when things started with the Olympics…”
As one of Egypt’s highest-ranked riders, he was shocked to discover, via the internet, that he hadn’t been selected for Tokyo.
“They had told me nothing had been decided,” recalls Sameh.
Amid the confusion, Joanne posted on social media asking why Sameh had been omitted, receiving a surge of support.
“That obviously really upset the federation,” says Sameh. “Egyptian people were supporting an individual rather than an institution and in Egypt that’s unheard of.
“The federation then made accusations that were completely untrue. I wouldn’t have minded missing out on the Olympics if they’d said straight up and in a respectful way that they had three better riders and to focus on 2024 instead. But they claimed I only wanted to go to the Olympics to raise the value of my horse, Suma’s Zorro, in order to sell her. I’ve been jumping Zorro for 10 years and could have sold her 10 times over, but Joanne always kept her to support me and the Egyptian team. So that really hurt.
“The breaking point came when they said my other mare, WKD Aimez Moi, wasn’t good enough. Horses don’t have a mouth, they just have their performance, and that performance is down to me, so saying my mare’s not good enough means it’s because I’m not doing a good job – I’m letting my horse down. It was such a stressful time.
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