Algeria’s Oussama Sahnoune became the first swimmer to book his spot to the Rio 2016 Olympics via the Arab Swimming Championships that are taking place in Dubai at the Hamdan Sports Complex (HSC) this week (April 4-7).
Sahnoune, clocked 22.27 seconds to take gold in the 50m freestyle event and match the A-standard Olympic qualifying time he needed to secure a place at the Olympic Games in Brazil this summer.
The 24-year-old, who had previously made the semi-finals in the 50m freestyle at the Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010, said he is ecstatic over qualifying for his first Games at the senior level.
“I was really happy when I made that semi-final in Singapore but now, I’m over the moon for qualifying for my first senior-level Olympic Games,” Sahnoune told Sport360° at the HSC.
“This is the result of a huge effort from my entire team in France. I especially thank them and my family for all the support.
“The 50 free is my signature event but now I’m hoping to go even better and qualify in the 100 free tomorrow.
“I prepared well for this competition and I came here to Dubai eyeing gold as well as Olympic qualification. Thankfully I have achieved both goals. It’s a big honour for me to accomplish this for my country. And I hope to do the same for Algeria in Rio.”
Defending Arab champions Egypt are currently leading the medals table but Algeria are close behind, with Tunisia also in the mix.
“It’s well-known that Egypt has really good swimmers and they’re making this competition a lot stronger. It’s great that Arab swimming is advancing like this,” added Sahnoune.
Olympian Ahmed Mathlouthi led a Tunisian one-two in the 200m individual medley, clocking 2:02.62 to take gold ahead of his team-mate Taki Mirabet.
It made up for a disappointing 400m freestyle he raced earlier in the evening, which saw him clock 3:50.49 to place second behind Egypt’s Ahmed Akram, who swam 3:49.07.
“I had a very bad first race, the 400 free, I was hoping for 3:48 but it didn’t go well. The 200IM was a little bit better,” said Mathlouthi, who competed in the 200m freestyle at the London 2012 Olympics and is already qualified for the 400 free in the Rio Games.
“I’m targeting the final at the Olympics, or at least the semi-finals, just to feel like you’re part of the competition, to feel present and to represent your country and the Arab world.”
UAE’s Yaaqoub Al Saadi was not pleased with his 27.27 swim that earned him a fifth place in the 50m backstroke final.
“I didn’t swim my best times so I’m not really happy,” he confessed.