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Swimming: Egypt's Farida Osman, a champion in the making

Karim Farouk , Sunday 30 Jul 2017
Farida Osman
Bronze medal winner Farida Osman from Egypt during the ceremony for the women's 50-meter butterfly heat during the swimming competitions of the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, July 29, 2017. (Photo: AP)
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Since winning the World Junior Championship in 2011, Egyptian swimmer Farida Osman has been inching her way to stardom.

The 22-year-old made a legitimate breakthrough in Budapest 2017 when she won the bronze in the 50m butterfly, the first-ever World Championship medal for Egypt.

She achieved a time of 25.39 seconds, missing the silver to Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands by 0.01 seconds, while the gold was claimed by Sarah Sjoestroem of Sweden, who had a time of 24.60 seconds.

"I am still in shock this actually happened," Osman wrote on her Facebook page on Sunday.

"I am humbled and honoured to have represented Egypt in this historic moment for me, the sport and the country," she added.

Osman has made history at the 2017 FINA World Championships with a medal and five African records in the process.

She broke the 50m fly record three times, swimming 25.74 seconds in the heats. She then improved it in the semis, with a time of 25.73s, before making a huge improvement in the final with 25.39s, quashing her old time of 25.78s set in Kazan in 2015.

In the 50m freestyle she swam a time of 24.78 seconds in the heats, improving her previous record of 24.91 set at the Rio Olympics last year. That record lasted only hours as she broke it again with a time of 24.62 seconds in the semi-finals, but unfortunately she ended ninth and missed out on the final race.

Osman's success was neither a stunning breakthrough nor a surprise package in Budapest, but rather the fruit of constant work and progression.

Talented sprinter

Egypt's Farida Osman competing in the women's 50m butterfly semi-final during the swimming competition at the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest (Photo: AFP)

Farida is a talented sprinter, competing in the 50m and 100m freestyle and the 50m and 100m butterfly where she has all national and continental records in her name. But her true specialty is the 50m fly where she has kept improving and shattering African records year after year.

She reached her third World Championship final in a row in her favourite event.

In Barcelona 2013, Osman became the first-ever Egyptian swimmer to qualify for a final at any FINA World Championship, finishing in seventh place.

Two years later, she finished fifth in the 50m fly at the 2015 World Championship after clocking 25.78 seconds, an African record at the time.

“Finishing fifth was a pleasant surprise for me as two years ago my best achievement was seventh place. I was also the youngest swimmer and those from other countries who train with me in the US were outside the top five," she told Ahram Online.

The bronze in Budapest 2017 seems a logical improvement.

Osman attributes her success to her team. "I would like to thank my coach Teri McKeever for helping me along this journey and my whole Cal Women's Swimming & Diving family, and the Egyptian Swimming Federation," she said on her Facebook page.

"This has been a dream for me and I hope this is just the beginning," she added.

Winning a medal is the dream for every swimmer but it takes effort, persistence and above all sacrifice. Osman has done it all.

Born on 18 January 1995 in Indianapolis in the US to Egyptian parents Randa El-Salawy and Hisham Osman, Farida, who was raised in Cairo, started her swimming career at five at Gezira sporting club in Zamalek and opted to compete for Egypt.

She played first for Egypt at the 2007 Arab Games when she was just 12.

She represented Egypt at the 2011 FINA junior World Championships before becoming an Olympian at only 17 when she was invited at the 2012 London Olympic Games. She finished 42nd in the 50m freestyle.

A major switch in her career occurred when she joined University of California in 2013 to train with the Cal squad.

“Deciding to stay in the US without my family and friends was the main challenge ahead of the championship. I was even cooking for myself. I intended to do all that I could to be on top form,” Osman told Ahram Online ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics.

She was already making progress and seemed on course to make an impact. At Rio she made it to the 100m fly semis and finished 18th in the 50m freestyle.
Unfortunately, her favourite discipline, the 50m fly, isn't listed in the Olympics.

"I have been working also on the 100m fly but it is a different technique and it needs time. I need to work on improving my start in the races and also making my underwater period longer and stronger," she said.

Osman has still three years before Tokyo 2020, where she hopes to achieve her dream of winning an Olympic medal.

For now her next big test will be the 2019 FINA World Championship where she will be hoping to claim more honours.

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