After a last-minute qualification to the Olympic Games, Egyptian swimmer Youssef Ramadan, a name that nobody knew before in his homeland, turned out to be one of the brightest prospects after making a big impact in Tokyo.
The 19-year old swimmer became the first Egyptian male swimmer to advance to the semi-final at Tokyo Olympics 2020 since the 1948 London Games.
"I have competed in several world championships but the experience with Olympics is like no other," he told Ahram Online.
"It is a really amazing feeling to be among the world champions and a part of this Olympic show," he added.
Ramadan competed in the men's 100m butterfly event. He came 14th among 56 swimmers with 51.67 seconds in the quarterfinal to secure a semi-final spot, beating his own record, which is also a national one, in the process.
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.
"I did not expect to reach the semis especially that I improved my timing three weeks before the participation in the Olympics. It was really hard to do it again," Ramadan commented.
Ramadan had previously broken the national record of 53.01 seconds which has been intact for more than 10 years.
In the semi-final, Ramadan finished 8th in his heat with a time of 52.27 seconds, finishing 16thin the overall ranking. Only the top eight swimmers reach the final.
"I had a chance to reach the final. It was not really my lucky day," he said.
Qualification on D-Day
Qualifications for the Tokyo Olympics ran from 1 March, 2019 to 27 June, 2021.
Ramadan hadn’t secured his Olympic qualification through the A Cut of the International Swimming Federation (FINA). He competed in the several international championships until he booked his flight to Tokyo on the last day on 27 June, a few hours before the end of the qualifiers.
"It was so hard. I wish I could have qualified earlier but I made it after nine attempts," he commented.
A month before the Olympics, Ramadan travelled to the United States to take part in the TYR Pro Swim Indianapolis.
"I swam 100m butterfly three times but, unfortunately, I did not qualify. My timing was 52.04 seconds," he said.
He was 0.08 seconds late as the initial FINA A standard Olympic qualifying time is 51.96 seconds.
"After a week and half, I travelled to Boston and competed seven times, but did not reach the A cut. Two weeks later, I finally made it and secured my qualification," he added.
Ramadan timed 51.83 seconds in the men's 100m butterfly event at the 2021 Dolfin Fran Crippen Memorial Swim Meet of Champions in the US to book his trip to Tokyo.
"My goal I want to achieve in the next three years is to be one of the best swimmers in the world," he added.
Moving to the US
Ramadan, who started practicing at eight in the Heliopolis Sporting Club, travelled to the US in August to continue his studies at the Virginia Tech University, where he is studying engineering, and also pursue his swimming career.
"I don't like engineering. I am thinking of moving to business," he says.
"I have a daily routine that I have to follow in the US. There is time for studying, training, gym and fitness. Everything is well-organized. The schedule of swimming workouts is strict. Each swimmer has to be on time and any delay, even if it's only for a few minutes, is not acceptable."
He spent around one year away from his family and friends in the US due to the lockdowns caused by the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ramadan had to move directly from the US to Japan in order to compete in the Olympics.
"It was a very difficult period. I could not return back to Egypt because of quarantine restrictions," he recalls.
The young swimmer has already switched his specialty to the 100m butterfly and intends to remain focused on this event.
"I used to swim long course but I began to swim in yards. I took some time to adapt to it. I will keep training in 100m butterfly. I am not getting any new disciplines," he said.
"After I finish my studies, I am planning to stay in USA to continue my training and improve my records until I become one of the best swimmers in the world."
Ramadan’s role model in swimming sport is Michael Phelps. “I have been a big fan of him since I was young. He really inspires me,” he smiled saying.
"I am aspiring to become one of the top five swimmers in the world to be able to win a medal in the 2024 Paris Olympics," he concluded.
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