Nadine Karim secured the third place for her home country in the Junior category in the World Aquatics Open Water Swimming World Cup. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A Dubai expat student knows what it takes to strike a fine balance between academics and sport.

The 16-year-old Nadine Karim recently swam her way to the top three in the world, only to fly right back from Egypt where the World Aquatics Open Water Swimming World Cup was held, to take up her GCSE exam in Dubai the next morning.

“My first General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) exam was at 11am on a Tuesday. My flight landed at 7am the same day. I could not afford to be tired as I had to do well in my exam. It was quite a challenge but there was no way I was going to miss my exam,” said Karim, who is a student of GEMS Wellington Academy, Al Khail.

Karim, who secured the third place for her home country in the Junior category, said she is thrilled that she has qualified for the World Aquatics Championship in Japan next month. But the rigorous preparations will not come in the way of her academics.

Nadine Karim with her father from whom she draws a lot of psychological support. Image Credit: Supplied

Time management is the key

Ask her how she achieves this balance, and she says, “I have learnt the value of time the hard way. This is most important. If you use your time wisely, then every piece of the puzzle will fall right into place.”

She says, “Even though maintaining the balance between my swimming and education can be tough and challenging, I know I have to be resilient. If this doesn’t give me the motivation to keep going, then what’s the point of my dreams?”

Nadine Karim with her mother who helps her stay on track. Image Credit: Supplied

Karim feels the support of family and teachers has also helped her immensely to stay on track.

A middle child with two other sisters, she says, “My dad has a Ph.D. in Coaching Psychology which helps me a lot in adjusting my mindset for the better. It helps me understand how I can use Psychology to my advantage. My mom is one of my biggest supporters, doing everything to ensure that I’m happy and that I’m the best.”

She says she is lucky she discovered her passion for swimming at a very early age. “I started swimming since when I was two years old, little knowing that it would play such a big part in my life. I just knew I wanted to reach the Olympics one day. Of course, a lot of athletes dream of that. When I turned 15, I developed a new love for open water swimming. And I knew it was for me. I believe this will help me achieve my dream of reaching the Olympics.”

Tips to balance sports, academics
Use your time wisely
Accept the challenge, it’s not going to be easy
Set daily, realistic goals in both spheres
One need not be at the cost of the other
Be resilient
Take support of teachers, family and friends

She says, "I am a student athlete striving for a high standard education. So I don’t let my swimming get in the way of academic achievements. My dream is to be able to major in Dentistry, which automatically raises the ceiling of expectations where my studies are concerned. I know I have to meet these expectations and work hard while balancing it with my swimming schedules."

Karim travels quite extensively to participate in various championships and in the process, misses a lot of school. “But I make sure I organise my time and as a swimmer who is defined by time, I know how valuable each second of the day is. So I use that to my advantage because at the end of the day, it’s all about time management. When I’m at a competition, I don’t completely cut off from studying. I am conscious of the psychological factors that might affect my performance both in my sport and academics.”