Dubai: Mubarak Al Gaffari is full of pride to be the lone UAE swimmer at the London Olympics and is determined to come away with a personal best.
“Representing my country is an indescribable achievement and I cannot convey what I am feeling at this moment,” Al Gaffari told Gulf News from the national swimming team’s base in Italy.
“At best, I would say that I feel accomplished as a swimmer and an athlete as the Olympics is the biggest stage in the world of sport.”
The whole UAE swimming team is holding its summer training camp in Italy, where they have been under coach Jay Benner for the past three weeks.
They are scheduled to return to Dubai before Al Gaffari leaves for London on July 23. He has been accepted as a wild card in the men’s 100 metres breaststroke.
“As far as the actual competition goes, I need to be realistic about my chances. I look forward to achieving my personal best timing in the race,” said the 24-year-old swimmer from Al Wasl Club.
Traditionally, the UAE has been handed a wild card by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Fina, the world governing body for swimming.
For the past two Games, that invite has gone to Obaid Al Jasmi. But with the swimmer from Abu Dhabi recently undergoing treatment for a heart-related ailment, the ticket has gone to Al Gaffari.
Coach Benner was confident of his charge’s progress.
“The goal would be to swim under one minute four seconds at the Games,” he said.
“Mubarak’s best is 1:04.6 [at the Arab Games in Doha last year], so we would be pleased if he can bring it down.”
Benner also expects Al Gaffari’s participation to be an important step in his career.
“I believe it will benefit him in his development over the next four years by allowing him to measure himself against the top swimmers,” Benner said.
“I feel he should use this opportunity to rise to the next level.
“Mubarak can be a good example for the younger swimmers. He is willing to work hard at training sessions.
“If we had a dozen more like him in the UAE, we would be in very good shape in the future.”