Egypt earned its first ever medal at the FINA Swimming World Championships this year at the hands of Farida Osman, who won a bronze medal in the 50 meter butterfly event. The talented swimmer is currently the Egyptian record holder for 100 meter freestyle and butterfly events, and the African and Egyptian record holder for the 50 meter freestyle event. We sat down with Osman to talk about her victory, her future goals of competing in the Olympics and even her love of shopping!
The young athlete believes her latest medal is her greatest achievement yet, taking “pride and honor” in winning Egypt’s first swimming championship medal. She added, “I think this is just the beginning, and hopefully I will achieve more and more throughout the years. My ultimate goal is definitely to win an olympic medal.”
The 22-year-old graduated last spring from the University of California Berkeley where she majored in marketing and advertising. She is currently in the “transitional period between college and [her] professional career.”
“My main focus right now is swimming and I won’t be doing any particular job other than that,” Osman says. She continued, “I will be putting my masters on hold until I decide what’s coming next.”
Osman first started swimming at Gezira Sporting Club (GSC) when she was only four years old. Shortly after beginning to swim, her coaches encouraged her parents to have her join the team because they saw that she had great potential as an athlete.
“My parents just thought that I should learn swimming so that I don’t drown when we go on vacation,” Osman says. She went on to join the team and played for GSC until she left to attend college in the United States.
Osman entered her first national swimming competition in Egypt when she was 11 years old, where she won five gold medals and broke five Egyptian records.
She proceeded to join the National Egyptian Team a year later. The first international competition she participated in was the African Games, where she broke an Egyptian record in the 50 meter butterfly event.
The swimmer continued to compete for the University of California Berkeley while on their swim team and became the team captain during her senior year.
When it comes to comparing her swimming experience in Egypt to that of the United States, Osman says that swimming in Egypt was more “individualized,” while in the US she was part of a team and says it feels like “you are involved in something bigger than yourself.”
The athlete continued, “Swimming is already a boring sport, [so] making it more fun and more creative will definitely help in achieving great things.” She believes that “more team oriented swimmers in Egypt would make it much more fun.”
Like many college students who travel to study abroad, Osman admits that balancing studying, going to classes, and attending swim practice was “definitely hard at the beginning,” but after the first year she was able to learn to adapt to her new schedule and how hectic it was. “Just swimming abroad and living in the US made me learn how to be independent and how to do things on my own,” she added.
The professional athlete’s weekly schedule is no walk in the park; she attends swim practice nine times a week, goes to the gym two times a week, does several cardio workouts, and sometimes does yoga as well.
When Osman isn’t busy with her crazy schedule and has some time for herself, she has the opportunity to pursue her favorite hobby: shopping. “I love shopping. I go whenever I have free time. It’s like a recharging, reseting my mind type of thing,” she says. She also likes to take advantage of her day off to go on adventures, like going on hikes or to the beach, as well as spending quality time with her friends to reset before the beginning of her new week.
The Berkeley alumna also spoke very highly of her mentor and coach Teri Mckeever who, according to her profile on the UC Berkeley swim team website, is “regarded as one of the best and most accomplished swimming mentors in the United States, if not the world.” She has been overseeing the women’s diving and swimming program at UC Berkeley for 24 seasons and was the first woman to receive the head coach position on the US women’s swim team at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
“Teri Mckeever always has high expectations for us, not only in swimming but in everything in our lives. She pushes us to be comfortable with the uncomfortable because she believes this is how we achieve greatness: when you are outside of your comfort zone,” Osman says.
The record-breaker regards her determination and stubbornness to be her greatest strength. “My stubbornness helps me because I am not going to stop until I achieve what I have in mind. I always know how to push myself to do better,” she says.
Osman is planning on staying in Egypt for the next few months until she figures out what’s next. Since she just graduated this past Spring, the university will no longer be paying for her expenses and she is currently in the process of searching for funding. When she has everything paid for and clear, she says, “I am going back to the US to train for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.”
When it comes to what advice she’d give to young athletes, Osman says, “Accept the fact that sacrifices, determination and commitment are needed for someone to achieve a goal. The journey can be very hard and very long, but as long as you put your mind to it, anything is achievable. Egyptians in general sometimes lack this determination and willingness to sacrifice, but I believe that these are one of the main reasons why anything can be achievable.”