Sudan’s list of swimming world champions includes Sultan Kijab, Sara Jadallah, Mamdouh Mustafa and others. But the country’s once strong record for swimming has waned over the past two decades. Now a tentative revival is underway for 28-year-old Ahmed Adam Abdelrahman of Atbara, one of Sudan’s newest swimming champions:
Tell us about your relationship with water. How did it evolve?
You may not believe me, but when I was small I used to loathe water. My parents forced me to go to the swimming pool to learn how to swim when I was six years old. They had their reasons. We lived near the Nile and they feared I could go there with my friends and drown because I did not know how to swim. I was terrified of the idea of going into the water. I screamed and ran away, but at my parents’ insistence, I gradually adapted and learnt to swim. Since then I haven’t stopped swimming, though my dreams and aspirations have changed.
When did your hatred of water morph into passion?
When I won my first swimming championship for juniors, I realised I wanted to excel at this sport. My connection with water and swimming grew stronger and my hatred changed into love. I would spend hours in the water.
Describe your experience at local swimming championships?
I took part in many championships. The last of these were four long-distance competitions in the Nile and I won in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2014. In April 2015, I was named the best Sudanese swimmer in pools for three consecutive years.
What about international championships?
I took part in the World Championship in Australia in 2007, the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, the Open Water Championship in Abu Dhabi in 2013 and the Arab Games in Qatar in 2015. I also took part in Sharm Al-Sheikh Championship in 2013 and the Dubai Championship, which held the qualifications for the 2015 World Championship in Kazan, Russia.
What difficulties did you face?
None. Fortunately, we have a strong, local association in Atbara headed by Hashem Hussein who managed to overcome all the difficulties that we ran into.
Does your participation in all these championships yield any revenue?
I receive incentives for participating in local and international championships. Although these are far from lucrative, they give me moral support.
Do you participate in international training camps or train solely inside Sudan?
We held a training camp in Dubai in 2014, but we did not do it this year because it coincided with the Republic Championship. In general, we do take part in such camps.
There are few media reports about your competitions. How do you feel about that?
I think it is a real problem. We have all of these swimming activities, but they are not celebrated in the media, neither in newspapers nor audiovisual outlets. This is negligence.
Sudan participates in a lot of championships, but the results are poor especially in international appearances?
We can compete in the Arab and African championships, but it is impossible to compete in the World Championships. Neither the Arabs nor the Africans, with the exception of South Africa, have been a success in international competitions.
Finally, which international champion do you look up to most?
The Tunisian World Champion Osama Al-Mellouli. He is my friend and we remain in touch.