BARD sponsored swimmer Mishael Ayub was selected by the Pakistan Swimming Federation to compete at the 18th FINA World Aquatics Championships held recently in Gwangju. Swimming at a major FINA event is a prerequisite to swimming at the Olympics.
Mishael collected a total of 955 FINA points at the event, achieving a personal best time in the highly competitive 100m freestyle with a time of 1:05 seconds. She hopes to improve further on this and other times in the future and credits her coach and the BARD Foundation.
As is true of most sports other than cricket in Pakistan, our athletes still lack the ability to claim performances at the level of the world’s best, such as swimmers from the USA, Australia, Japan and China. It is unfortunate that the sports circuit in Pakistan does not have the same resources available to them as their peers abroad, hampering their ability to compete in such international stages, but it is exactly this problem that the BARD Foundation endeavours to remedy.
Mishael, whose training and other swimming activities are sponsored by the BARD Foundation, also said there needed to be more sponsorship for sportsmen and women. The BARD Foundation continues to play a significant role in this regard.
The foundation aims to nurture and help develop talent in the youth of Pakistan, and to accommodate sportsmen and women without the means to do so. Mishael is one of the fortunate few to have been sponsored and supported by the Foundation when she was sent to the Club Natacio Sabadell in Spain to train at championship standards.
"Simply the experience of swimming alongside swimmers of the calibre of Sarah Sjostrom, Caeleb Dressel, Katie Ledecky and others is an extremely exciting experience,” Mishael Ayub, 17, told The News. She, along with Pakistan’s top swimmers Bisma Khan and Haseeb Tariq, had been selected for the FINA event on the basis of performances over the past year, and at least two of these swimmers are likely to be selected for the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year by the PSF.
"Of course, the Olympics is a dream for every swimmer,” said Mishael. She added that the World Championships gave a very good idea of what it was like to compete against the world’s best. “We need a better sporting structure and more resources for swimming if we are to compete at the same levels as those at the top.”
She also thought more young people needed to be encouraged to take up sports such as swimming and also other games outside cricket to build up a larger pool from which the most talented will be selected. “This would mean improving school sports, providing more pools at district level and improving the skill set of our coaches,” she said, explaining that swimming was an extremely technical sport which changed quickly as more scientific developments were made.
The other members of the Pakistan team, Tariq and Khan, also swam well, with Haseeb breaking his own Pakistan record for the 100m freestyle and Bisma swimming close to her personal best times.
Mishael and her fellow athletes hold this initiative in high regard, and are very thankful to the people behind the cause.