The North Texas fencing community is mourning the loss of a well-known coach who trained many athletes over the years.
Fencing Master Aly Khamis, 48, died of complications from COVID-19 according to his close friend, Elsayed Emara.
"He’s young, he has a lot of dreams and lots of things in the future, and all of a sudden he’s gone. It’s just heartbreaking and shocking news to me," said Emara, the head coach and program director of Fortune Fencing Academy.
It's believed the 48-year-old possibly contracted COVID-19 while traveling to a tournament in Hungary in recent weeks. Emara said his friend also had an underlying health condition. Khamis died on April 4 in Egypt.
"We were more than brothers. let me tell you this, I was talking to him more than my own family," Emara said.
Emara said he and Khamis knew each other since the age of 12, growing up in Alexandria, Egypt. They began fencing around the same time and their journey together continued through the years.
"We continued on with the sport of fencing and we joined the national team, and we traveled to a lot for competitions and tournaments," Emara said.
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Khamis earned many awards over the years as a fencer on the Egyptian National Team and with other organizations.
Emara said the two immigrated to the United States in the mid-'90s to become fencing instructors.
"Aly was very passionate about the sport of fencing, he loved the sport of fencing. He was very enthusiastic about teaching other people and young athletes," Emara said.
He taught at different clubs in North Texas and had his own facility called North Texas Fencing Alliance in McKinney.
"Not having him around is going to leave a hole," said David Sierra, a fencing master and head coach of Cutting Edge Fencing in Euless.
Sierra said he and Khamis worked together over the years. He uses a weapon called a sabre and Khamis used an eppe, and Sierra said he helped advise Khamis during his fencing master thesis.
"He was a very passionate man, a fierce competitor and very dedicated to the principles of fair play and sport," Sierra said.
Most recently Khamis was training the Egyptian pentathlon team ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
“He did not hesitate once they asked him to help out and lead the fencers to the Olympics," Emara said.
Khamis was the vice president of the United States Fencing Coaches Association South Region.
"He was loved by all the fencing community," said Emara who continues to receive texts and calls from people across the world sending condolences.
It's still hard for him to process that his best friend is no longer here.
“Every time I look at the phone, I keep going through texts between me and him, and Facebook messages and I can't believe he’s gone," Emara said. "I feel like I’m dreaming I’m a little bit shocked and I can't believe he's gone."
He said his friend left behind three daughters, between the ages of 8 and 23. Emara said the two youngest also fence.
"He wanted to see all his girls be successful in their education and fencing," Emara said.
There is a GoFundMe account set up by friends for the family.