TUNIS, Tunisia, December 26. OUSSAMA Mellouli, USC super-sophomore and North African superstar was named Athlete of the Year today by the Tunisian newspaper, Le Renouveau.
In a story on the voting involving Tunisia's national journalists, the newspaper asked rhetorically: "Who would dare name another winner? Not even Hatem Trabelsi, who continues to perform prodigious feats [on the soccer field] for The Netherlands and who has heated up the chill of winter on the Old continent."
Mellouli, dubbed the "new hurricane of Tunisian swimming," tallied 510 points, 221 more than Trabelsi. "Yesterday a small fish unable to see farther than the confines of his aquarium, Oussama was transformed into a long-toothed shark these two last years, criss-crossing oceans."
At the national press meeting yesterday, the suspense did not last five minutes. When the announcement that Mellouli had won, all those present agreed that justice had been done and that "one could not present a more fitting tribute and handsome gift to this champion, to this racing car of the pools that, since his decisive passage in an American university (USC) has become a true threat to the ogres of world swimming."
Mellouli, 19, won a bronze medal at the World Championships, becoming the first Tunisian to medal at the Worlds.