Osman doing swimmingly

Ingy Musallam, Tuesday 14 Jul 2020

Egyptian swimming sensation Farida Osman talks to Ingy Musallam about how she has maintained her athletic performance, physique and mental health amid the pandemic lockdown


Farida Osman, the award-winning Egyptian champion who is the fastest female swimmer in Africa, continues to amaze fans with her undivided devotion and drive to keep ascending in success, even during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I have been doing my best to create my own training atmosphere at home. I have a small pool and fitness equipment to stay fit during the quarantine. I was also able to incorporate different exercises such as yoga and biking. I took the time to learn new things about myself and work on things I believed I have been missing such as flexibility,” she told Al-Ahram Weekly.

When asked about challenges that faced her when trying to stay fit during the quarantine, Osman, 25, said it was more of a psychological challenge than physical. “One of the challenges I faced was the idea of doing everything by myself during quarantine, not having a coach, a system to follow or a certain routine. That was the hard part. I had to always count on myself and have the willingness to do whatever I can to stay in shape and try to improve during these hard times, so it was harder on me mentally rather than physically to keep encouraging and motivating myself.”

Osman is an All-Africa Games gold medalist. The highlight of her career was at the 2017 World Championships when she won the bronze model in the 50m butterfly event.

At the 2018 Mediterranean Games in Tarragona, Spain, Osman won two gold and one silver, the fourth most decorated athlete at the games.

For the Middle Eastern region and the African continent, Osman was to have been one of the most touted female athletes in the Tokyo Olympics before they were pushed back to the summer of 2021 instead of 2020 due to Covid-19.

“I was upset because I felt that I worked really hard and sacrificed so much, so the initial reaction was upsetting and discouraging,” Osman said about the delay. “But then, I kept thinking of the bigger picture, of how our health and the health of everyone around us is more important, and I realised that I needed to view matters from a different perspective. Another year of practice is definitely to my advantage because I have worked on different exercises and my weaknesses, so I believe this will eventually help in my training. I have another year where I can get stronger and faster in the water.”

Dubbed Egypt’s Golden Butterfly, Osman, who is currently in Egypt, has been away from her usual training atmosphere, with her coach Sergio Lopez in the United States. She will return to the US as soon as matters start unfolding but until then, she was asked how she stays motivated at home in Cairo.

“Focusing on the positives. I had to always remind myself what I’m grateful for, have the discipline and encouragement to stay fit, and not be distracted by what’s around me. Having the support of my family here in Egypt has been really important as well. It felt really good to recharge and be around them for the time being.”

Osman had a similar piece of advice to share with athletes who have lost their motivation during the lockdown.

“I know that these are really difficult times but you need to focus on what’s important. You have to remind yourself why you love the sport and why you started it in the first place. I needed to constantly remind myself why I love swimming and why am I doing all this hard work, and I had to reevaluate and reshape my perspective so I can continue to be motivated.

 “You need to find the inner peace and the support system that will help you regain your motivation and encourage yourself. It has to start from within and you need to have the commitment and discipline to get your motivation back when times are hard,” she added

While focusing on the positive side, Osman emphasised how beneficial the previous period of time has been for her.

“Slowing things down made me realise how blessed and lucky I am. Being home for such a long time has definitely allowed me to recharge and get ready to train and compete again. For the past six years I haven’t been able to be home for this long, so it was really nice to slow down and appreciate all I have.”

*A version of this article appears in print in the 16 July, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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