Title Image: © Brigitte Lacombe, Qatar Museums Authority
From London to Rio De Janeiro, Nada Mohammed Wafa Arakji is leaving her watermark all over the world.
Nicknamed “the mermaid” by her friends, Arakji, a swimming Olympian representing Qatar in this year’s Rio 2016 Olympics, has always had a passion for swimming from a young age.
“I’ve always loved swimming and just being in the water, so that's how it started,” said 21-year-old Arakji. “I love how swimming allows me to destress, like if I’ve been having a rough day, swimming just helps me relax and generally I just feel good after training.”
Arakji had tried many different sports when she was younger such as basketball, ballet, and netball, but the one sport she had the most connection with was swimming. “I joined a small club called Tidal Waves and just wanted to train to gain a healthy lifestyle and to just stay fit, but the more I pursued the sport the more I became better at it,” she said.
After joining the Tidal Waves swimming club in Doha at the age of nine, Arakji then began to participate in more local and international competitions.
“My coach noticed the massive improvement I made and thought I was dedicated to the sport and so I decided to take swimming to a whole new level, competition level,” Arakji said.
She joined the Qatar National Team at the end of 2011 and reached a professional level of swimming. After that she became one of the best female swimmers in Doha and reached the London 2012 Summer Olympics.
Along with three other female athletes, Arakji had taken part in the London Olympics, making history by being Qatar’s first delegation (since its eight-year participation in the Olympics) to include women.
Arakji described her experiences in the London Olympics as “amazing!” She loved the opening ceremony and meeting new people and world class athletes.
“Everyone was so supportive and encouraging, like my family, friends… and fans,” she joked. “It feels great and is such an honor. I’m so proud to be representing my country Qatar. My family has always been very supportive and I'm so thankful for that.”
Arakji also spoke a little about participating in the Rio Olympics this August. “It feels spectacular! I'm very excited to see what Rio has prepared for us! I'm wondering now if it's going to be similar to the London Olympics.”
As a female athlete who has achieved many milestones so far and defied cultural bounds, Arakji hopes to inspire people. “I hope to be the best I can be and inspire others to just be passionate, work hard to reach their dreams, and to stay positive.”
Making it to both the London Olympics in 2012 and Rio this year are not Arakji’s only accomplishments. This year she also graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar with a degree in Business Administration and was the class of 2016’s student speaker.
When asked how she managed to balance her personal and professional life, she said, “I just try to manage my time as much as possible to make sure that I had time for both my personal and academic life.”
Arakji also said the key to maintaining this balance is to take everything one step at a time and to enjoy what you do. “Do your best, have faith in yourself, and keep going.”
Are you looking forward to the Rio Olympics this August? Cheer Nada on by commenting below!
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