Arab News Japan
ABU DHABI: The Abu Dhabi Sports Council has confirmed three more star-athletes from the MENA region will be lining up alongside Tunisian Olympic gold medalist Ahmed Hafnaoui at the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m), taking place from Dec. 16-21.
Farida Osman from Egypt, Syria’s Omar Abbas and Yusra Mardini representing the FINA Refugee Team have confirmed their participation in the FINA World Swimming Championships taking place in Abu Dhabi, organized by Abu Dhabi Sports Council and FINA.
The fastest female swimmer in Egypt and Africa, and butterfly and freestyle specialist, Farida Osman is set to return to the water in her first competitive championships since the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The decorated swimmer narrowly missed out on the 100m butterfly semis during the Tokyo Games and is back stronger, faster, and better, aiming to break records in December’s championships taking place in Abu Dhabi.
Osman gained international recognition when she qualified for the London 2012 Olympics at the tender age of 17. Since then, she has been crowned an All-Africa Games medalist and is an Egyptian national champion and record holder.
More than just a competitive athlete, Yusra Mardini is considered an inspiration for millions of refugees around the world. Originally from Syria, Mardini fled Syria’s civil war in 2015, where she tried to cross to Greece in an inflatable boat. With the help of her swimming skills, she saved the lives of almost 20 people during her flight.
Now, she has famously competed under the IOC Refugee Team flag at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games, and again this year, was one of 29 refugee team competitors at the Tokyo Olympic Games. She has also been named the youngest ambassador of the UN refugee agency UNHCR since April 2017.
21-year-old Syrian athlete Omar Abbas started his swimming career in 2005 and started swimming with the Syrian National Team in 2014. At such a young age, Abbas already has a plethora of medals and titles under his belt, including two medals (silver and bronze) at the Asian Championship 2019 in India, winning silver in the 200-m freestyle and bronze in the 800-m freestyle.
The four MENA competitors will join over 1,000 athletes from more than 180 nations in December, competing in 44 World Championship titles across six days, for a $2.8 million prize pool.
Regional talents competing at the international event also include Emiratis Layla Al Khatib and Youssef Al Matrooshi.
Commenting on the championships, Farida Osman said: ‘‘I am proud and honored to be representing Egypt in the upcoming FINA World Swimming Championships. The summer Olympics didn’t go as planned – that has just motivated me even further to better my performance and grow as an athlete. It’s all about hard work, perseverance, performance, and people coming together to support.
‘‘It’s an athletes dream to represent their country in games like December’s championships and I cannot wait to stand next to the world’s greatest athletes and aim to break even more records for my home country.’’
Talking about her aspirations for the FINA World Swimming Championships, Yusra Mardini said: ‘‘My goal in life is for everyone not to give up on their dreams. Even if it seems impossible at the time, you never know what will happen. I hope my participation in the upcoming championships does exactly that and inspires people to follow their dreams. Swimming saved my life, and it fills me with great pride to able to represent the FINA Refugee Team and compete alongside some the world’s greatest athletes.’’
Abdullah Al Wahaibi, Tournament Director said: ‘‘As we get closer to the FINA World Swimming Championships, we are incredibly proud to announce a host of world-class sporting Arab talent. We are honored to welcome them to our great city in December. We are sure they will undoubtedly make their home countries proud. Each athlete is a source of inspiration for their own personal reasons, and we are all excited to watch them race at Etihad Arena next month.’’