Dubai: Barely two weeks after undergoing surgery for a serious heart ailment, the UAE's Obaid Al Jasmi can only think of earning a third successive qualification to an Olympic Games.
"I have started training already as the doctors have given me permission to do so," the 31-year-old swimmer told Gulf News yesterday.
"I have to fight against time now so that I can do myself and my country proud at the Olympic Games in London."
Al Jasmi swam in the 2004 Athens Games and in Beijing four years later. And now he is only thinking of competing in the two qualifiers lined up for him in April and May so that he can make the qualifying time of 54.25 seconds in his preferred 100-metre butterfly event.
"I have to do it for myself and for my country. I am feeling fine and all I can think about now is to step up my training and qualify for London," he said after passing one final test yesterday.
"My advice to all athletes is to have a regular health check-up done."
The UAE swimmer — eventually diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome (WPW) — would never have known he had a heart condition were it not for an alert doctor in Dubai, who spotted something was wrong with the swimmer's electrocardiogram (ECG) during a routine check-up just before the GCC Swimming Championships last year.
"The doctor insisted that I had to carry out more tests. I simply did not believe him as I felt nothing was wrong with my heart," Al Jasmi recalled.
The doctor told the UAE Swimming Association (UAE SA), who in turn kept the UAE National Olympic Committee (UAE NOC) informed about the swimmer's condition. "I went ahead with my swimming regimen normally. I participated in the GCC Swimming Championships and then participated in six Fina World Cup competitions to see if I could qualify for London," Al Jasmi said.
But it seems as though he went into overdrive, as a back ailment kept him out of the swimming pool for a month. And when he started training again, the UAE NOC intimated to him the seriousness of his heart condition, recommending that he go in for immediate surgery.
Al Jasmi got the necessary date for the surgery in the first week of March at the Khalifa Hospital in Abu Dhabi. An hour-and-a-half after he went under the knife, he was moved out to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for observation. After 48 hours there he stayed in the hospital for another eight days until he was discharged with a clean bill of health and the permission to train.
"I feel I am re-born. It's a completely different feeling in me. I cherish life much more now and I feel a rare type of excitement while training. It's something different and I cannot explain it," he said.
WPW: Heart disorder
Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome (WPW) is one of several disorders related to the conduction system of the heart. Though a majority of sufferers remain asymptomatic throughout their lives, there is a risk of sudden cardiac attack and death associated with the syndrome.
People with WPW can experience palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath or even near fainting. It is caused by the presence of abnormal electrical signals which stimulate the ventricles to contract prematurely. The incidence of WPW is between 0.1 per cent to 0.3 per cent in the general population.