WITH an impeccable collection of 15 gold and one silver medals, Tunisian swimmer Oussama Mellouli was the toast of his nation at the Arab Games in Doha which concluded last week.
The 27-year’old’s rich haul was one of the main reasons why his country ended up as runners-up in the region’s showpiece event and it did not come as a surprise when he was named the Athlete of the Games.
The talented swimmer, who won the 1,500M freestyle gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, will get a chance to repeat his heroics in Doha when it hosts the FINA World Cup next October. Mellouli, who resides in the US where he studies for a master’s degree, last week signed a contract with the Qatar Swimming Association to compete in the event.
“I’ll be very pleased to return and compete again at this venue. The Games set new standards and it’s been an opportunity for the Arab people to discover their champions. I’m proud to represent my country and I enjoyed every moment here,” said Mellouli.
It was virtually a one-man show from Mellouli, who has become the icon of the Games and will be remembered forever.
After his stunning show in Doha, he will also be keen to put his best foot forward at the ’12 London Games. Mellouli also justified the rationale behind dedicating his victory to the Palestinian children.
“It’s through swimming, the love of my life, that I’m sending a message of hope to the Palestinian children in Ramallah, Gaza and the West Bank. They’re suffering, living in war and destruction.
“I realised my dream when I grew up in a small Tunisian town and then competed against the best swimmers while living abroad. I’m the luckiest man today and I hope that they’ll also realise their dreams,” he added.