Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1254, (9 - 22 July 2015)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1254, (9 - 22 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Back in the water

The Egyptian disabled national swimming team is travelling to Glasgow to participate in the 2015 IPC Swimming World Championships, Abeer Anwar reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

After a 12-year absence from both national and international levels, Egyptian disabled national swimming activities have restarted. The national team was formed a year ago to prepare for the Glasgow 2015 IPC World Swimming Championship which is being held in Great Britain this week.

Four swimmers will represent Egypt: Hani Al-Sayed in the 50m butterfly, Ahmed Hassan in 100m backstroke and 400m freestyle, Youssef Mohamed in 200m. freestyle and 50m backstroke and Ayatallah Ayman in 400m freestyle and 50m freestlye. At 15 Ayman is the youngest swimmer in the history of the Egyptian Paralympic committee.  

The four qualified after achieving the MQS (the minimum qualification standard) in both the Spain Open and Croatia Open.

As Essam Zedan, the silver medalist at the Atlanta Paralympics of 1998 and recently the coach of the Egyptian disabled national team said, since her last medal in the World Championship in 2002 in Argentina, the Egyptian Paralympic Committee stopped all activities related to swimming “because it is a very expensive sport”.

As Zedan explain, “In Egypt the population is 90 million but we are lacking swimming pools for swimmers that fit our population. All through the country we have only 17 Olympic swimming pools so renting such pools for training is very expensive.

“In addition, the swimsuits and other things needed for training plus the special nutrition programme athletes have to follow were also very expensive and these were the reasons behind cancelling the activity for 12 years.”

Zedan said a year ago the Egyptian Paralympic Committee appointed him together with head coach Amr Mustafa. In just one year they formed a national team of seven swimmers and started from scratch because the athletes did not have a GMS -- an international swimming license -- so they contacted the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the swimmers started participating in international events to be able to qualify for the World Championship.

As Zidan explained, “During my time, paralympic events were far easier than nowadays so we have to work harder than before. Today, able-bodied swimmers in Egypt cannot record 51 seconds in 100m freestyle while we, paralympic swimmers, are asked to record 50 seconds, so the disabled are suffering. They lack attention and sponsorship as swimming is a very difficult sport.” He recounted his experience with one of the players, Youssef Mohamed, who is deaf and mute. Zidan had to learn a special way to deal with him and give him instructions through signs. The Egyptian Paralympic Committee could not afford a special tutor for Mohamed.

As head coach Amr Mustafa explained, “Our target is to qualify for the 2016 Rio Paralympics but to do this we have to participate in three international events as each swimmer has to achieve a whole point. World Championship participation gives you half a point so we still have to compete in two other events. Only the first and second place winners in the World Championship qualify directly for the Games so I think it will be difficult for our swimmers who have been training just one year. I myself will be very satisfied if they reach one of the first 16 places each in his race and class.”

Over 580 athletes from nearly 70 countries will compete in the seventh edition of the 2015 IPC Swimming World Championships. The 2013 event held in Montreal, Canada.

Glasgow, with a population of around 600,000, is Scotland’s largest city and is its commercial capital. It is the UK’s largest retail centre after London.

The competition will be hosted at Tollcross International Swimming Centre which has been extensively refurbished and extended. The existing 50m, 10-lane pool has been joined by a new 50m, six-lane warm-up and training pool, ensuring world-class facilities for the event.

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