Omani swimmer wins international praise
“I am sure that she will be the base for the future of Omani girls in sports, not only in swimming, but in general,” said the Director General of the Olympic Council of Asia
Times News Service
MUSCAT: Omani swimmer Lara Al Yafei has received praise from the Director General of the Olympic Council of Asia as she seeks to become the first woman to compete for the Sultanate at an Olympic event.
Sixteen-year-old Lara represented the Sultanate at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, and finished third among eight competitors in the opening heat of the 50 metre breaststroke competition, setting a personal best of 37.75 seconds.
The event included 43 participants, with Lara finishing 36th overall, with the top 16 advancing to the next round.
But Hussain Al Musallam, the Director General of the Olympic Council of Asia, said Lara must continue to work hard, because she is setting an example for all Omanis.
“My message to her is to continue working,” he said, in an exclusive interview with Times of Oman.
“Don’t look only at the result and compare it to others, because you are the first girl from Oman who will lead a bright future for other Omani girls in swimming and other sports.
“The challenge of culture and religion in Oman is huge, but I congratulate her, for her encouragement, her love and passion for sports, and I am sure that she will be the base for the future of Omani girls in sports, not only in swimming, but in general, other sports, which is important for the future.”
Al Musallam added that there needed to be an incentive from national bodies to encourage athletes to perform, even if it wasn’t always in the form of financial gain. Ahead of the Asian Games, South Korea’s national football team was told that they would be able to exempt themselves from compulsory military service if they won a gold medal at the tournament.
“During the Asian Games, the South Korean Olympic Team for football was told that if they won a gold medal, they would not go to the army,” he said.
“This was an incentive for them, so they were training very hard to represent their country, reach the podium and be awarded a gold medal so that they would not go to the army. This is a sort of incentive, even if it is not a cash incentive. We need this sort of coordination.”
HIGH HOPES: Sixteen-year-old Lara represented the Sultanate at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.