Egypt's young swimmer Youssef Ramadan defies odds in Tokyo

Ghada Abdel-Kader, Friday 30 Jul 2021

The 19-year-old steals the show among Egyptian swimmers after qualifying for the semi-final of the men's 100m butterfly event on his Olympic debut

Youssef Ramadan
File Photo: Youssef Ramadan. Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics sports team Facebook

Egypt's young swimmer Youssef Ramadan was little known in his homeland before the Olympic Games got underway, but the impact he made in Tokyo makes him a promising prospect in future editions.

The 19-year-old, who competed in the men's 100m butterfly event, became the first Egyptian male swimmer to advance to the semi-final at the Olympics since the 1948 London Games, when Ahmed Kandil and Taha Youssef El-Gamal featured in the final of the 200m breaststroke and the 100 freestyle respectively.

Farida Osman, nicknamed the Golden Fish, was the first Egyptian female to qualify for the semis, having achieved that feat in the 100m butterfly event at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

Ramadan came 14th among 56 swimmers with 51.67 seconds in the quarter-final to secure a semi-final spot, beating his own record, which is also a national one, in the process.

"This is a new Egyptian record. Ramadan previously broke the record of 53.01 seconds, which has been intact for more than 10 years," Tarek Mohamed El-Newehy, one of Ramadan's Egyptian coaches and the technical director of swimming at Cairo's Heliopolis Sporting Club, told Ahram Online.

In the semi-final, Ramadan finished 8th in his heat with a time of 52.27 seconds, finishing 16th in the overall ranking. The top eight swimmers reach the final.

Tokyo qualification

Ramadan travelled to the United States without achieving the A Cut of the International Swimming Federation (FINA), which qualifies for the Olympics. He competed in several championships in the US until he qualified for the Tokyo Games.

The initial FINA A standard Olympic qualifying time is 51.96 seconds.

He claimed a gold medal with a time of 52.03 minutes in the men's 100 butterfly event at the 2021 Dolfin Fran Crippen Memorial Swim Meet of Champions in the US.

The qualifying period for the Tokyo Olympics ran from 1 March, 2019 to 27 June, 2021.

"Ramadan managed to qualify on 27 June -- the last day," El-Newehy said.

Swimming journey

Ramadan, a swimmer at Heliopolis Sporting Club, started practicing the sport at the age of eight.

He won his first gold medal at the Swimming National Championship 2017 when he was 15 years. A year later, he made the transition to a junior swimmer.

He finished 11th with a time of 24.13 minutes in the semi-final of the 50m butterfly and 20th with a time of 54.06 seconds in the 100m butterfly in heats summaries at the FINA World Junior Championships in 2019.

He also won three gold medals in the 100m butterfly, 50m butterfly and mixed 4x100m freestyle relay events at the 14th Arab Junior championships in 2019 in Morocco. He also took one silver in the 50m freestyle event.

Ramadan then travelled to the USA in August 2020 to continue his studies and resume training to get ready for the Olympics.

He enrolled at the Virginia Tech University in Virginia, studying engineering.

His coach is Segio Lopez Miro, the director and head coach of swimming and diving at the university. He is also the coach of Farida Osman.

Ramadan took a gold medal with a time of 44.32 seconds in the 100m butterfly at the 2021 NCAA Championships.

"This is considered one of the strongest championships among universities in the US," El-Newehy said.

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