ABU DHABI: Emirati teenagers Youssef Al-Matrooshi and Layla Al-Khatib have been selected to represent the UAE at this year’s FINA World Swimming Championships (25 meters).
Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC) announced the pair’s selection for the competition that will take place at Yas Island’s Etihad Arena from Dec. 16 to 21.
Council officials also revealed details of several community programs and the FINA World Aquatics Convention that will be held on the sidelines of the event.
Al-Matrooshi, 18, and Al-Khatib, 14, will be the first Emirati athletes picked to face some of the world’s best international swimmers.
The duo, chosen as wild cards by the UAE Swimming Federation, are two of the country’s most promising talents, having already achieved considerable success in the sport, and Al-Matrooshi will also represent the UAE in the 100 meters freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics, due to start on July 23.
At the same time as the announcements, ADSC introduced the official mascot for the championships, Dana the hawksbill sea turtle.
Newly elected FINA president, Husain Al-Musallam, said: “I am sure both Youssef and Layla will undoubtedly make the UAE proud. They are a source of inspiration for all aquatic athletes in the country and in the region.
“Having represented my own country (Kuwait) as a swimmer, I know the sacrifices which need to be made in order to compete at the highest level.”
The community programs set to be implemented ahead of the event will include a swim safety ambassador scheme, a schools and clubs roadshow involving Dana the turtle, and a virtual swimming initiative providing an insight into the challenges faced by elite-level swimmers during championship races.
Originally scheduled for last year, the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) will feature men’s and women’s events in all four strokes – freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly – along with the individual medley and relays.
The FINA World Aquatics Convention will also be hosted on Yas Island in parallel with the competition.
“We have great faith and trust in Abu Dhabi’s plans for hosting the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) later this year, and the announcement of the operational readiness, Emirati wildcard athletes, and the official event mascot only adds to the sense of anticipation ahead of the event.
“Abu Dhabi has proved its long-term support and success in hosting major international events, and it will surely organize the FINA World Swimming Championships with success.
“As recently elected FINA president, I’m very much looking forward to bringing the championships to Abu Dhabi for the first time, particularly during a year in which the country celebrates its 50th anniversary. We have very fond memories from the 2010 edition, brilliantly held in Dubai,” Al-Musallam added.
Aref Hamad Al-Awani, secretary-general of the ADSC, praised the role played by the council’s chairman, Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, in the UAE’s hosting of the event as well as his work in developing the sports sector in the country.
He said: “Hosting an international event of this stature reflects the UAE’s and Abu Dhabi’s position and pioneering role in the return of normal life to society after the challenge (the COVID-19 pandemic) witnessed by the world.
“We are excited to host the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) at one of the leading venues on Yas Island, Etihad Arena, and we look forward to welcoming almost 1,000 elite short-distance swimmers from all over the world, especially as it comes after the conclusion of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which adds more excitement to the competition in Abu Dhabi,” Al-Awani added.