x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Swimming Emirati brothers enter record books

The four al Jasmi brothers are the first siblings to compete in tandem at the Fina World Short Course swimming championships in Dubai.

Obaid al Jasmi, centre, with his brothers, Saeed, Bakhit and Faisal, before the start of their men´s 4x100-metre freestyle heat.
Obaid al Jasmi, centre, with his brothers, Saeed, Bakhit and Faisal, before the start of their men´s 4x100-metre freestyle heat.

DUBAI // Faisal al Jasmi, dressed in black and green jammers identical to those of his three brothers, stood poised in anticipation over the 25-metre pool awaiting the signal to leap.

As he crouched, ready to complete the final leg of the 4x100-metre relay at the Fina World Short Course Championships, he vacated his mind of everything except the task at hand.

In doing so, the 19-year-old Emirati managed to block out the din caused by the few hundred vocal supporters that had filed into the Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex.

He managed to ignore the 153 national flags that hang prominently from the roof of this state-of-the-art aquatics centre. And he managed to forget the fact he stood on the cusp of making history.

The signal to dive, as he knew it would, arrived on the end of his brother Bakhit's arm.

In one swift sequence, Bakhit's fingers touched the wall, Faisal's body leapt from the starting block, and the al Jasmi name entered the record books. For the first time, four brothers had represented their country together at a world championships.

"It's such an achievement not only for our family, but for the whole of the UAE," said Faisal after helping the Emirates team - with Saeed and Obaid completing the quartet - clock a combined time of 3mins 35.72secs. "We are all just so proud of what we have achieved."

The al Jasmis finished 27.94 seconds behind Russia, who set a new championship record, and did not qualify for the evening's finals.

But Obaid, at 29 the oldest brother and also the UAE team captain, said he was overjoyed with his family's accomplishment.

"We are happy because we did our best," he said, flanked by his three siblings and smiling nervously as the world's media swarmed around them. "By doing our best and representing our country, that is enough for us."

The feat helped mark a successful inauguration for the Emirates' newest venue.

Last night, Ryan Lochte won the first gold of the championships in the men's 200m freestyle and warned other swimmers his first swim is nearly always his worst. In posting a time of 1min 41.08secs, Lochte bettered the championship record he set in the morning's heats by 1.3secs. Danila Izotov of Russia won silver while Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia took third.

"I just wanted to do a good time," said the American, whose medal campaign will have been given a boost by his win. "Usually my first race is always the worst so I'm glad that's out of the way." Lochte is entered for five events and could compete in eight if he contests the three relay competitions.

Liu Zige, the Olympic champion of China led most of the way in the women's 200 butterfly, but slowed in the final lap and finished fifth in the race won by Mireia Belmonte Garcia of Spain in 2mins 03.59secs.

Earlier Fabio Scozzoli of Italy clocked 57.60secs to knock more than a second off the men's 100m backstroke record and said: "It's strange to find yourself swimming in the middle of the desert."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae