Having represented Egypt in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Farida Radwan, our fourth-year Dentistry student, spoke with The Insider MIU about her experience being an artistic swimmer and being part of the Olympic Games!
Insider: How did you get into artistic swimming, and when did you start practicing?
Farida: “I started practicing at the age of five at Heliopolis Sporting Club, and it wasn’t planned at all. One day, I was at the club with my family sitting by the pool, saw some girls practicing, and liked what they did. At that moment, I just said: “I want to do that too!”
I: How do you manage your time being an Olympian and a Dentistry student?
F: “Schedules! Schedules are your best friends. Sticking to schedules isn’t easy, but you have to keep in mind that every second in your day counts. Sometimes, you can practice all day, and the next day you could be having a final exam at nine in the morning. It’s mentally and physically exhausting, but it’s worth it.”
I: What are some of the obstacles that you face as an artistic swimmer?
F: “I have a lot to say regarding that question. It is a VERY challenging sport. You have some points that you can’t lose track of. You have to watch your weight, keep track of what you eat, and the hardest obstacle is education. Balancing between education and practice is a huge challenge for any athlete, especially Egyptian athletes. You don’t have time to think about yourself or your issues. Sometimes, you could stay days without sleeping, especially those days before any competition.”
I: What is something you would be eager to compensate that artistic swimming made you sacrifice?
F: “I would definitely spend more time with my family and friends. I have spent most of my life practicing. My family could be traveling or reuniting, and I should unwillingly sacrifice that! The same goes for my friends. Sadly, you wouldn’t have that much time to see them more often.”
I: Many took to social media to criticize the sport’s costumes? What would you say to them?
F: “I don’t really pay attention to those negative comments. This is the sport, and this is its costume. You shouldn’t judge people based on how they dress. We must accept the fact that we’re all different, and we can’t build shallow thoughts based on what we only see. As I have mentioned before, the sport is already challenging. We experience mental doubts and insecurities; we wouldn’t like people loading us with more negative thoughts. We are only asking you to encourage us.”
I: Do you think people are aware of the existence of other sports such as artistic swimming? If not, does it bother you?
F: “Unfortunately, I don’t think people are aware of this sport nor our efforts. Our routines can look good in videos on Facebook, Instagram stories, and interviews, but you have no idea about the toughness we have to deal with. We can be practicing up to ten hours per day, and this is only a normal day! Right before the Olympics, there was a 14-day camp, mainly to quarantine. Our day started at 6:00 am and ends at 10:00 pm. It is a rollercoaster of emotions and challenges.”
I: Finally, is there a certain message that you would like to send to people in Egypt?
F: “Yes, I would definitely want people to support and encourage us! After the Olympics, we were told that eighth place isn’t a big deal. No, it is. In this sport, it is! We made a new record for Egypt this year.”
I: Regarding mental health, do you think that you as a team have suffered from hidden mental stress? Have you expressed it to each other?
F: “Well you cannot say this to the entire team, but yes I did speak about it to certain people. Besides, when you dive into the water and start practicing you cannot really complain from any stress, you only should focus on the routine and stick to it.”
I: We noticed that the second you start the routine, you are smiling the entire time. Why is that?
F: “There are marks for this you see, there are marks for execution and artistic impression for when you have a certain theme going, your facial expressions should match it.”
I: Do you intend to continue after graduation as a trainer or will you stick to dentistry?
F: “I will definitely continue as a trainer, this sport is a part of me and I don’t think I’d want to change that. I want to train with new techniques, techniques I was never taught. Moreover, I can do both, be a dentist and a professional trainer.”
I: some people didn’t practice sports at a young age, and now they want to. Is it going to be difficult for them considering their age now?
F: “Absolutely not, it doesn’t matter as long as you have the will to keep going and force yourself to practice.”
I: Now to our final yet most essential question, how did you prepare and train for the Olympics during coronavirus?
F: “Our game is in water, not to mention we are a team, not individuals, so it was difficult. We held zoom meetings where we would watch special workouts that would help us underwater but still that we not sufficient. In addition to this we got very disappointed at the postponement decision so imagine the pressure we faced.”