Thanks to Rafael Domeyko for contributing to this report.
Last weekend’s Arena Pro Swim Series event in Charlotte was heavily attended by international athletes. We’ve covered the successes of Brazil’s squad already, along with the Italian influx, but one national team that made some understated waves in Charlotte was Egypt.
Egyptian National Team Head Coach Sherif Habib told SwimSwam that his squad was attending the Charlotte Pro Swim Series meet to prepare for – and qualify for – this summer’s World Championships in Kazan, Russia.
It turned out to be a highly-successful meet for Team Egypt, with a number of national records falling along with multiple national records.
Marwan El-Kamash was the biggest success story. The 21-year-old broke two national records, including a 200 free in which he finished third overall, ahead of some huge swimming names. El-Kamash is currently finishing up his junior year of school and swimming at the University of South Carolina.
El-Kamash was 1:47.73 in that 200, smashing the old national record by well over a second, and perhaps more importantly, getting under the FINA “A” cut and qualifying for this summer’s World Championships. He would do the same in the 400 free, going 3:50.34 for a new national record and A cut. His Egyptian and South Carolina teammate Akaram Mahmoud was also under both of those marks, going 3:50.61. Mahmoud also made an “A” cut in the 1500 free, going 15:07.84.
Marwan El-Kamash’s younger brother Youssef also broke a national mark. He had set Egypt’s national record in the 100 breast at the Mesa stop of the Arena Pro Swim Series, but bettered it by a tenth with a 1:02.62 in Charlotte. That earned him 10th place overall. Youssef swims for Grand Canyon University in Arizona, along with his twin brother Mazen.
Coach Habib says his athletes will now gear up for the Hungary Open on June 27th, with more athletes looking to join Mahmoud and El-Kamash on the World Championships team.
Habib told SwimSwam that the national team (or the portion of it that isn’t currently training at U.S. colleges) trains out of the Cairo Stadium, which features a 50-meter outdoor pool and a 25-meter indoor pool. Though Egypt has been in upheaval since its 2011 revolution, Habib says the political turmoil hasn’t affected the team’s ability to train. In fact, he said the biggest challenge for Egyptian swimming at the moment is a lack of sponsors and sports marketing, which would help fund travel for the national team and potentially bid to host international meets in the future.
Habib was living in the United Arab Emirates in 2012, when the Egyptian swimming federation asked him to return to coach the national team. Habib agreed and returned to his home country to help bring the swim team up to an internationally-competitive level.
Egypt’s team will be back in action next month at the Hungary Open, and will then take a training trip to Europe in the leadup to Kazan, where Habib hopes the rise of Egyptian swimming will continue strong.