Youngsters join UAE contingent at Fina World Championships

Four teenage swimmers to compete alongside Laila Al Khatib and Yousuf Al Matrooshi at Etihad Arena

UAE swimmer and Olympian Yousuf Al Matrooshi. Photo: UAE Swimming Federation
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The UAE Swimming Federation announced four new wildcards to represent the host nation at the Fina World Swimming Championships (short course) at the Etihad Arena on Yas Island from December 16-21.

Salem Ghalib, Sara Akasha, Ahmad Al Marzouqi and Mohamed Al Hammadi will join Laila Al Khatib and Yousuf Al Matrooshi, who were unveiled as the UAE’s representatives at the Fina Worlds in the summer.

Ghalib, 16, won the gold in the 100-metre butterfly in a time of 57.78s at the recent Arab Swimming Championships at the Sports Centre in Mohammed bin Zayed City.

After winning three gold medals at the championships, Ghalib hopes to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics and also deliver at the Final Worlds.

“I am delighted and honoured to be competing at home in the UAE - it is an athlete’s dream,” Ghalib said.

“Taking part in the Arab Swimming Championships in October was an incredible experience, and winning gold will be moment I will never forget.

“The Arab championships have definitely given me even more drive and motivation to give my best performance yet this weekend. It will be an incredible moment stepping out onto the swimming deck, side by side with some of the world’s biggest swimming stars.

“To have the opportunity to swim against an array of Olympic finalists and medallists is something I’m truly grateful for. I hope you make my nation proud at this year’s competition.’’

Akasha, 16, won gold in 200m freestyle at the Arab Swimming Championships and hopes to make a promising start at the Fina Worlds.

The UAE national team will also be represented by Al Marzouqi, 15, who is considered one of the promising stars in the world of swimming.

Al Marzouqi is scheduled to participate in the 100m and 200m freestyle, in addition to the 100m and 200m backstroke.

A talented breaststroke specialist, Al Hammadi, 16, is looking forward to breaking his personal records which he achieved during the 200m, 100m and 50m races in the Arab Championships.

“We are delighted to announce that an additional four of our great nation’s future talents will be competing at this year’s Fina World Championships,” Sultan Al Samahi, president of the UAE Swimming Federation, said.

“We look forward to supporting our young and promising talents of the future at this world championships, which witnesses the participation of the best swimmers from around the world.

“It is new achievement in the UAE's journey, which celebrates its 50th National Day. We are happy to see our ambitious youth during this championship in Abu Dhabi."

The Fina Worlds has drawn an elite field of regional champions, including Tunisian Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Ahmed Hafnaoui, the fastest female swimmer in Egypt and Africa and butterfly and freestyle specialist Farida Osman, and Syria’s Yusra Mardini who will be representing the Fina Refugee Team.

Updated: December 12, 2021, 1:45 PM