Saturday, August 04, 2012

London 2012: Yanet Seyoum a champion despite coming last

(Aug 03, 2012, The guardian)--The first ever Ethiopian swimmer to compete at the Olympics is a hero in a country more famed for its long-distance runners.

Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

When Yanet Seyoum took to the water for her Olympics 50m freestyle heat, it was a fair bet that most of her fellow competitors would not have endured a training regime of avoiding doggy-paddling tourists in a hotel swimming pool, or relied mainly on written instructions from a coach who lives in another city.

Seyoum - the first swimmer from Ethoipia to ever make it to the Olympics - came last in her heat and failed to make it to the semi-final. Her finishing time was a personal best of 32:41, a whole 2:40 slower than the heat winner Karin Clashing O'Reilly of Antigua and Barbuda and nearly eight seconds behind the fastest qualifier, the Netherlands' Ranomi Kromowidjojo. But the 18-year-old, a lone swimmer in a country famed for its long distance runners, has high hopes for the future.

"I would like to see professional swimmers in my country," Seyoum said, speaking before the Olympics among the guests and leisure swimmers around the pool of the Ghion hotel, a popular hangout for Addis Ababa's middle classes. "But this requires swimming clubs."

Ethiopia has won 38 Olympics medals, 18 of them gold, since the 1956 Games, every one of them in running events of 3,000m or longer. When you look at the country's swimming infrastructure it is not hard to see why the sport has not featured. The Ghion's pool, Olympic size but often cold and sometimes busy, is Seyoum's best option for training. Read more from The guardian »

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