Sport | Other Sports

Mellouli wants to help build swimming

Tunisian Olympic champion has strong desire to see youngsters thrive

  • By Alaric Gomes, Senior Reporter
  • Published: 00:00 December 18, 2010
  • Gulf News

Osama Mellouli
  • Image Credit: AFP
  • Osama Mellouli
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Dubai: The face of swimming for the Arab world is keen to do his bit to ensure the popularity of this sport rises in this part of the globe.

"I would love to see a lot of development at the grassroots with particular emphasis on the schools," Tunisia's Osama Mellouli to media after adding a silver medal to the bronze he had won on the opening day of the tenth Fina World Swimming Championships (25m) at the Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Sports Complex.

Mellouli is the most recognised face in swimming in this part of the world following his continued success especially in the long distance swims. His favourite events are the freestyle and medley races and he is currently the African record holder. Mellouli became the 1500m freestyle world champion at the 2009 World Aquatics Championships with a winning time of 14:37.28, a second best performance of all time.

The 26-year-old insisted that the evolution of the sport needs to be built around the new complex, the best he has ever competed in during his reign so far.

‘Bigger plan'

"This facility is simply amazing, so we need to have swimming schools coming up around this so that people can come and be part of the bigger plan. They need to go to the schools and get the kids to be involved. You need to build your success around this new complex," Mellouli said.

"Dubai has been taking steps in the right direction and if they now pay attention to the basics they can't go wrong from here," he added.

Mellouli has been a strong presence for the organizers ever since they successfully won the bid to stage the 10th Fina World Swimming Championships (25m) six years back. In fact, he was the main personality and the face of the competition during its build-up at the behest of sponsors Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).

Proud of his Arab heritage, Mellouli achieved his most significant progress in swimming when he moved to the US to continue his swimming career.

He trained hard and his ultimate success came in 2008 Beijing Olympic Games when he won the gold in the 1500m freestyle.

"I am open to coming back here to support the growth of swimming in any possible way," he remarked.

"For me it is such a nostalgic moment to be here and to swim here as this facility is like in the middle of nowhere," he remarked.

Supporters

A handful, yet vociferous band of supporters turned up to support Mellouli as he overtook Clary for the silver in the men's 400m individual medley on Thursday night. "They made their presence felt for sure," he joked.

"But it is a good thing to have people backing you because Tunisia is a football nation and to get someone supporting swimming is a good feeling. I felt a bit under pressure, but I was okay," he said.

"I feel special here and that is why I don't mind coming here."

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