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Interview | Record-breaking swimmer Farida Osman talks Rio, US & Egypt
Part of a small Egyptian swimming delegation, Farida Osman will be carrying her country’s swimming hopes at the Rio Summer Olympics. Farida, who came under the spotlight after a number of record-breaking performances, will represent Egypt in the women’s 50m freestyle and 100m butterfly on the biggest stage in the world.
A history-maker, Farida was the first-ever Egyptian woman to win a gold medal at the 2011 FINA World Junior Championships and the first to qualify for a final at the World Aquatics Championships. The 21-year-old owns the Egyptian record in 50m and 100m freestyle and butterfly, as well as the African record for the 50 butterfly.
Who inspired your career and how did you get started on your swimming journey?
My older brother (four years older than me) and I started swimming just for safety reasons, for the sake of learning but then coaches began to tell my mom that I should join the age group team because they saw talent and potential in me. So I joined the team when I was five years old and competed at my first national swimming competition at the age of 11.
What are the key factors of your success?
Having a very supportive family, my talent, my dedication, my perseverance and hard work. Accepting the fact that sacrifices need to be made.
Who is your favorite swimmer/role model? Why?
One of my role models is Natalie Coughlin, she is a twelve-time Olympic medalist. She is my role model because she still swims until now even though she’s 31, I love that she gives back to the community and she does a lot of other volunteer work to inspire young athletes.
What’s your most remarkable achievement so far, the one you’re most proud of?
I am most proud of my 50m butterfly at Junior Worlds because I was the first ever Egyptian to break the record and win a gold medal. I am also proud to be able to final in the 50m butterfly at World championship at the senior level, also the first Egyptian to do so.
How did training at the University of California, Berkeley, which is known for having a strong swimming program, affect your performance?
Swimming at Cal has definitely enhanced my performance because it allowed me to be on the right track and made it easier for me to be able to balance both swimming and academics at the same time. Having stability with everything also helped me a lot because I was prepared with what to expect.
In the 2012 Olympics you were 17 and were invited to participate shortly before the start of the events. You now have a chance to compete again. Do you feel more confident about this forthcoming event?
Yes I am much more confident because I believe that training in the US allowed me to have a better world ranking. Also this time I qualified with A cut rather than B cut like London, where my possibility of going was unsure. Now however, I have known that I am going to the Olympics a year in advance.
Looking back at London, what are you doing differently this time in terms of training, nutrition and overall preparation for Rio? Also, how far could your participation in the 2012 Olympic Games be useful for you in Rio?
Concerning my overall preparation, there is a consistency in my training, technique improvement and I also train with Olympians everyday. Concerning my nutrition, I am more aware of healthy diets and watch my weight carefully. Going to London 2012 allowed me to experience the real deal, which will help me understand the Olympic atmosphere and what to expect in Rio.
Being under the spotlight with a lot of people hoping you’ll bring home a medal, what are your ambitions and expectations for the Olympics?
I have been telling people that we have to have a realistic expectation where final-ing at the Olympics will be an extraordinary achievement for me and I would be so proud if that happened. A medal would be a dream but I see it more in 2020 and not 2016. I have been training in the US for three years now and I believe that my hard work will hopefully pay off. I have been away from home for a while which was definitely hard but I am doing my best to make Egypt proud.
How supportive has the Egyptian Swimming Federation been? What kind of obstacles or challenges do you face, if any?
They have been more supportive than usual this past year because they have been more in touch with me and check up on me more often. Concerning challenges, being away from home is hard, having to live in a different country is also hard where everything is new. My freshman year was definitely the hardest because I was still adapting to this new system. Also, to balance both swimming and school is hard because it needs a lot of work to perform at both.
In your opinion, what are the reasons behind the improvement in the Egyptian swimming scene in the past few years, and the presence of a number of champions competing on the international level?
I think having a new Egyptian national team coach, Sherif Habib who is internationally experienced and more exposed, knows what swimming at world-class level requires. The Egyptian Swimming Federation started to be more supportive and pay more attention to swimmers who live in the US. I think having a lot of swimmers move to the US to do the same thing that I do helped Egyptian swimming move forward.
KingFut would like to thank Farida Osman for her time and wishes her the best in her future endeavours.