Palestinian swimmer glides past obstacles to reach Rio Games

Tue Jun 28, 2016 12:11pm EDT
 
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By Mustafa Abu Ganeyeh

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian swimmer Mary al-Atrash can't wait to make a splash at the Rio Olympics in August, but participation, rather than a podium finish, is probably the best she can hope for.

Atrash competes in the 50 meters freestyle but her best time of 29.91 seconds is more than four seconds slower than the Olympic qualifying threshold of 25.28 seconds, in itself almost two seconds behind the world record.

Atrash will be one of six Palestinians competing in Rio and the delegation will be the largest Palestine has sent to the Games since its first participation in the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. Five competitors appeared in London in 2012.

"I am so happy, representing Palestine in competitions is a dream for any Palestinian athlete, especially the Olympics," Atrash told Reuters.

The 22-year-old university graduate's preparations have been hampered because she does not have an Olympic-sized pool to train in. There are none in the Palestinian territories and she has to settle for a 25-meter pool.

She also has no training partners and relies only on her coach, Musa Nawawra, with occasional travel to competitions abroad.

"Preparations are going well, and considering the resources we have... we are able to achieve our best and set goals and ambitions," Atrash said.

Nawawra was also upbeat, despite the lack of adequate training conditions.   Continued...

 
Palestinian swimmer Mary Al-Atrash, 22, who will represent Palestine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, train in a swimming pool in Beit Sahour, near the West Bank town of Bethlehem June 27, 2016.  REUTERS/Ammar Awad