The UAE's swimming team may not be challenging for medals at the World Championship in Rome, but they are relishing being on the top international stage. It is the first time the Emirates have been represented, and the challenge of competing against the best has seen seven national records fall already.
Record times have been set in the 200m butterfly, 200m backstroke, 50m breaststroke, 100m breaststroke, 200m medley, 100m freestyle and 200m freestyle. While the times may still be way off the pace of those of the championship's leading stars, including 400m freestyle champion, Paul Biedermann who set a world record of 42.00secs in the event's final on Wednesday, their improvements mark a step in the right direction for the UAE team.
"It has been a great competition for us so far," said 26-year-old freestyle swimmer Saeed al Jesmi. "It is fantastic to compete against such talented swimmers. We have been learning a lot from them." Al Jesmi attributed the improvement to the team's new head coach Paul van Lieshout. The American was brought in to train the squad 40 days before the start of this week's championship. His arrival has brought with it an overhaul of training programmes and fitness regimes, aiming to improve the technique and endurance levels of the team.
"We spent just more than a month training with Paul before the tournament," said al Jesmi. "He has changed a lot of things. He is a great leader. I have never seen training like what we are doing now. "We have only been training with him for 40 days, but already he has made a lot of difference to the whole team." The Al Ain resident Mohammed al Jhasri has felt the benefit of the new training regime, setting UAE records in the 100m freestyle and 200m freestyle over the past few days.
"I am very happy to have broken the national record," he said. "Now I am looking to go one better." He will compete in the 50m freestyle heats tomorrow, hoping to score a hat-trick of UAE records. "I want to break the UAE record in the 50m freestyle," he said. "Having the three records would make me very proud. "We have had a lot of achievements in a short space of time. I am resting mentally and physically ahead of my next race. I hope I can do well again."
Obaid al Jesmi, who claimed the UAE 200m medley record on Wednesday, is the holder of the UAE 50m freestyle record. He will not be defending his time, however, instead he will compete in the 100m butterfly later today alongside teammate, Ali Saeed. email@example.com