Nada Al Bedwawi, the UAE’s first female Olympic swimmer, has plans to encourage more young girls to take up swimming as she believes its time the nation took “progressive” measures to make advances in the field of sport.
Al Bedwawi, who swam in the 50m freestyle heats on Friday, is keen to play an inspirational role for the younger generation at home and has ideas on how to get more girls to participate in sport.
“I thought about my high school, and how they didn’t really care about PE in general and how it was a subject that everyone would get a 100 in,” Al Bedwawi told Sport360.
“So I thought maybe have a compulsory, preferably Olympic sport, that each student must take, like swimming, judo, fencing, etc. “Because if young girls don’t even try then they wouldn’t even know they have a passion in a certain sport.”
Asked what she thinks is the main factor hindering females from practicing sport in the UAE, the 19-year-old NYU Abu Dhabi student said: “Probably cultural reasons. And for that we need to target parents and such, but it’s hard to do that, so both my parents and I are trying to think of a way to get to them.”
Al Bedwawi placed third in her 50m free heat with a modest time of 33.42 seconds. She was the flagbearer for the UAE in the opening ceremony.
“It was a really nice and overwhelming experience,” said Al Bedwawi of her journey in Rio. “It’s not as scary as I thought and – I don’t know how to say this but – back in the UAE you don’t see many swimmers, especially for me as a girl, I don’t see other female swimmers.
“But once I go there (to the Olympics) I know I’m not alone and that there are millions around the world who share the same passion, and that it is possible for us, UAE nationals, to be regarded like American, Russian and other athletes.
“We have the same facilities as they do, all we need is a change in the mentality. “The UAE has been progressive in many fields, and now it’s time for us to focus on sports.”
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