ORLANDO, Fla. - Zeyad Abdelmaged has been told in the past he doesn't belong in the pool.

  • Joined Olympia water polo last season
  • Team won 2018 FHSAA State Championship
  • Originally from Egypt, came to Florida in 2017

“It really motivates me a lot," the Olympia water polo sophomore said.  "Especially when somebody thinks I can’t do it, I really get into it and I’m like, I’m really going to do it to show them I can do it.”

A native of Egypt, he caught on to the sport while seeing some kids play in his home country. He came to Florida a year and a half ago, and upon enrolling at Olympia, decided to try out for the eventual 2018 state champions. 

“I just had this little kid who came up and said he wanted to play water polo, so he joined our team last year," head coach Stephanie Johnson Possell said. "And once we put him in the pool, right away, he caught my eye.”

He's fast. His legs are strong. And he's elusive. But there is one particular element of his play that you can't miss.

“People see me with one arm or something, they will take me really hard to try to take advantage of it,” he said.

Abdelmaged was born with a partially-formed right arm, which has resulted in him having to learn how to adapt to the sport. He throws with his left hand, and also uses it to catch. The right arm is used primarily to fend off defenders and corral loose balls. It may look like it's difficult, but he flourishes. 

"It’s pretty incredible to see him embarrass some of these kids," senior Luke Carey said. "We all love it as a team, we hype him up, and he does things that surprise us every day."

His success comes off the basic principle of knowing he has to outwork everyone in order to flourish.

"A lot of stuff when we do, I have to find another way to do it, or find a better way to do it," Abdelmaged said. "Or sometimes I can’t really do it, but I try to make it better, so it can improve me in a game."

And that work has led to him becoming one of the most important options in the Titans' second rotation. He believes his story can serve as inspiration to others who feel they don't belong where they feel most at home.

"Nothing is impossible," he said. "There’s always a way you can do it. And never give up, don’t worry what people say about you. Always be what people say you can’t do."