UAE swimmers out to make history in Kazan

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Alia (l) and Nada (r) proud to represent the UAE.

    A new chapter in UAE swimming history will be written when Alia Al Shamsi and Nada Al Bedwawi become the first ever Emirati females to represent the country at a World Aquatics Championships.

    At the Arab Swimming Championships in Dubai last April, Al Shamsi, became the first Emirati female to fly the UAE flag in an official competition.

    The 15-year-old has now stepped up to the global stage where she hopes to make a statement in Kazan by showing the rest of the world that girls like her are breaking new ground in the UAE.

    Al Shamsi will make her World Championships debut in the 100m breaststroke while Al Bedwawi, 17, will compete in the 100m backstroke heats.

    "It’s really nerve wracking but I’m going to do my best and I don’t really expect a result, just being able to be here and participate is my goal," Al Shamsi told Sport360.

    "I am very proud and I take it as a responsibility to encourage other female swimmers to join and help break gender boundaries in the UAE."

    Asked if there was any particular swimmer she was looking forward to meet, Al Shamsi named Farida Osman, an Egyptian former junior world champion who was a finalist at the Barcelona Worlds two years ago.

    Meanwhile, Al Bedwawi, who turns 18 in two weeks, says she’s drawing lots of inspiration from rubbing shoulders with the big guns in Russia. She has only been swimming professionally for a little over two years.

    "It’s great and challenging at the same time," she said of being at the Worlds for the first time. "Seeing myself right now in the World Championship in Kazan between Olympians and world class swimmers just makes me want to become the best I could be and improve myself and make the UAE proud."

    Asked if she feels the Arab world is becoming more accepting of female swimmers, Al Bedwawi said: "Yes definitely, because besides me and Alia, there are girls from Qatar and Kuwait who started world class swimming as well.

    Youngest ever

    Another Arab female who will enter the history books this week in Kazan is Bahrain’s Alzain Tareq, who at 10 years old, will be the youngest ever swimmer to compete at a World Aquatics Championships when she lines up for the 50m butterfly and 50m freestyle.

    Alzain posing for the camera

    Alzain has already been turning many heads walking around the Athletes’ Village in Kazan, with many swim stars walking up to her asking her about her age and which events she’ll be contesting.

    "I’m very happy to be here," said Alzain. "I’m a little bit nervous but it’s a great feeling being at the World Championships and meeting all these great athletes. I’m most excited to meet Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden."

    Alzain got into swimming at the age of four thanks to her father Tareq Juma Salem. One of her coaches, Khalifa Ali, passed away six months ago and Salem says Alzain will be competing this week in his honour.

    "She will be doing this for him," said Salem.

    – #Quiz360: WIN annual membership at Noviplus Dubai
    – #360podcast: It's going, going Gyan in AGL
    – GALLERY: Community Shield winners since 1995

    Alzain’s father says he is not worried about her getting overwhelmed by the occasion and is confident she will be up for the challenge.

    "She has competed in many championships in Bahrain since she was seven years old so she has the experience," says Salem.

    "We started going on the road when she was five or six years old. She trains twice a day and now she will be the youngest ever to compete at a World Championship.

    "She is loving it so far to be honest. She’s been taking pictures with every single swimmer. She’s very excited to meet Chad le Clos. She had a great chat with (former Olympic champion of Zimbabwe) Kirsty Coventry, she met Missy Franklin, world champion Cate Campbell…

    "Everyone is asking her what she is going to swim, asking her how old she is. One of the coaches who works with Campbell interviewed her the other day. I’m sure the World Championships will be an unforgettable experience for her."

    Salem and Alzain’s coach have put some targets for her in Kazan where she will hope to clock 34 seconds or better in the 50 free and 41 seconds or better in the 50 fly.

    "One of the targets is for her to not come last in the in the 50 free heat and hopefully she will not," Salem said.

    "She probably can beat five girls already. If she does it, it would mean that not only is she the youngest swimmer here, but she also beat a couple of older swimmers."

    The UAE and Bahrain aren’t the only GCC countries to field women in their swim squads for Kazan. Olympians Nada Al Arkaji of Qatar and Faye Sultan of Kuwait will also be in action alongside a host of Arab female swimmers from Yemen, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan, Palestine and Sudan.


    August 2 – Men’s 50m breaststroke – Mubarak Al Besher

    August 3 – Men’s 100m Backstroke – Yaaqoub Al Saadi
                     Women’s 100m Backstroke – Nada Al Bedwawi
                     Women’s 100m Breaststroke – Alia Al Shamsi

    August 4 – Men’s 50m Breaststroke – Mubarak Al Besher

    August 8 – Men’s 50m Backstroke – Yaaqoub Al Saadi


    August 7 – Women’s 50m Butterfly

    August 8 – Women’s 50m Freestyle