DOHA, Qatar, July 31. The tiny Middle Eastern nation of Qatar is attempting to make a name for itself in swimming, with a leg of the FINA World Cup and the short course world championships scheduled for the capital city of Doha in the coming months. To that end, the swimming federation has appointed Tunisian Olympic champion Ous Mellouli as its ambassador in the months leading up to the two big competitions.
Though Mellouli hails from Tunisia, about 3,200 miles west of Qatar, both countries are part of the Middle Eastern and North Africa (MENA) region and share an ancestry and Arab religion. Mellouli said he hopes to be able to bring stories of his success in swimming to children in the area and inspire emerging talent, according to an article in the Gulf Times.
Though he’s not the first Arab swimmer to succeed at the international level, Mellouli was the first Arab male swimmer to win an Olympic medal, taking gold in the 1500 freestyle in 2008. He followed it up with another gold in 2012 in the 10K marathon swim. With the hopes of producing another medal-winning Arab swimmer, Mellouli is starting the Oussama Mellouli Swimming Academy in Qatar, giving children in the MENA region a dedicated place to hone their swimming skills.
“When I was younger we didn’t have world-class training facilities in the region that are capable of hosting major championships like we see in Qatar today. I went to the USA to train. It’s important to me to support the development of Arab talent in swimming, sharing my own experiences and using the facilities we have here in the region to do that. With a World Cup and a World Championships being hosted in Qatar this year it’s crucial that we use the power of those events to inspire talent and leave a legacy for the sport. Swimming has changed my life and I’m excited to support young people around the region on their own journeys.”
Part of his duties as ambassador will be working to develop the FINA World Swimming Championships Youth Programme, which will allow two swimmers aged 14 to 16 years old from each country swimming at the short course world championships the opportunity to race in the same pool as the veteran athletes.