After an outstanding season that saw her guiding Egyptian swimming to record-breaking results at both the 2015 FINA World Championships and the multi-sport All-Africa Games in Congo, Egypt’s best ever swimmer, Farida Osman, seems at her best to achieve new glory at the Rio Olympics.
“I will be competing at Rio in the 100-metre butterfly, 100-metre freestyle and the 50-metre freestyle, so the trio will take-up all my concentration in the coming period,” Farida told Ahram Online in an extended interview last August.
“I believe that I can achieve good results in the 100-metre butterfly at the Olympics, and so I will work hard on that during my training. My current record is 58.2 and I will work hard to make it 57.5 before the Olympics. I know it will be hard amid this tough competition, but rivalry always motivates me,” she added.
Egypt’s team made a huge surge at the World Championships in August, breaking 11 national records with Farida Osman and countryman Ahmed Akram being named Egypt’s best swimmers.
Farida finished fifth in the 50-metre butterfly final in Russia’s Kazan, marking the country’s best ever position in the World Championships. She is the first-ever Egyptian to qualify for the women’s 50-metre butterfly final.
Osman, a student at the University of California, Berkeley, finished on 25.78 seconds, beating her own Egyptian and African record of 25.88, which she had set in the 50-metre butterfly semi-final.
Egypt’s previous best was also achieved by Osman when she finished seventh in the 2013 Barcelona World Championships.
The 20-year-old finished 16th in the 100-metre freestyle at last year’s edition in Kazan, but didn't qualify for the semi-finals after losing a swim-off.
After just one month, the huge success of Egyptian swimming continued as Farida shined again, winning seven medals in the multi-sport All-Africa Games in Congo.
In the women's competition, Farida won four gold medals in the 50-metre freestyle (25.12), 100-metre freestyle (0,55.41), 50-metre butterfly (26,31) and 100-metre butterfly (0,58.83) contests. She also won gold with other teammates in the 4×100-metre medley relay in a time of 3,56.04.
Farida’s two silver medals were in the 4×100 metre freestyle relay (55,03) and the 4×100-metre medley relay (59.72).
In 2016, Farida’s superb performance continued, breaking several records at the Women’s PAC-12 Swimming Championship on 25 February.
Osman finished the 50-yard freestyle race in 21.32 seconds — a championship record and the second fastest time in the history of the race.
"[I got] the second gold with a new meet record … in the 100-yard butterfly. I also got the silver medal in the 100-yard freestyle,” Farida told Ahram Online.
"I worked so hard in training and focused on improving my strokes," she said.
She also won the 200-yard relay with 1:26.77m, another Pac-12 championship record.
New Olympics experience
Osman, who plied her trade at Cairo's Gezira Club, came under the spotlight after finishing 7th in the 2013 Barcelona World Championships, marking the best ever result for Egypt at the World Swimming Championships.
In her only Olympic appearance to date, in London in 2012, Osman finished 42nd with a time of 26.34 in the 50-metre freestyle. Now, she has a different outlook for the Rio Olympics after reaching a new level of maturity.
“My coach prepared a training programme that contains participating in camps and events so I can be in my best shape,” Farida explained after the All-Africa Games.
Osman, who considers famous Egyptian swimmer Rania Elwany and the 100-metre butterfly world record-holder Dana Vollmer of the USA her role models, acknowledges she still has a lot of work to do to improve herself.
“Vollmer, the world record-holder with a time of 55.60, will be my prominent competitor in Rio. Fortunately, she is training with me in my university and she also encourages me. Preparing beside her could be a motivation to compete against her in Brazil,” the Egyptian champion said.
“Elwany is my idol in the Arab world and Vollmer is the international one. It will be an honour to repeat their achievements."
Check schedule of Egyptian athletes