Local Sports

Exclusive: This Dubai swimmer hopes to get into France national team

rituraj@khaleejtimes.com Filed on March 17, 2021
Elias Ghoudane has broken several records in UAE swimming competitions. (Supplied photo)

The young swimmer, who often trains at the majestic Hamdan Sports Complex in Dubai, will join the Stade Béthunois Pélican Club in France later this year

Six years ago, when the football world was under the spell of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, all Elias Ghoudane wanted to do was practice the keepy uppies.

“Playing football was my biggest passion until I was around six or seven,” said the 13-year-old Elias, who had moved to Dubai from France with his parents, Fatima and Zacharie, in 2009.

But Elias soon realised that he needed to become stronger to excel at a physical sport like football.

That was when his mother, a former professional horse rider in France, took him to the pool.

“My mother said swimming would help me develop my stamina and muscles. If I wanted to be good at football, I needed to be strong,” Elias recalled.

But what started as a fun activity, soon turned serious as Elias swapped the football field for the swimming pool and the Messis and Ronaldos gave way to Michael Phelps in his mind.

Now, six years later, this GEMS Metropole School (Dubai) student has broken several records in the UAE swimming competitions at the age group level, even earning a shot at breaking into the French junior national team.

“When I started swimming, it was for fun, you know, to keep myself in shape. And then once I started seeing some progress, I actually started swimming more and more. I started swimming three times a week and then I moved on to six or seven times a week. And once I started winning all my competitions, it really motivated me and that’s how my journey started,” said Elias.

The young swimmer, who often trains at the majestic Hamdan Sports Complex in Dubai, will join the Stade Béthunois Pélican Club in France later this year as he hopes to break into the French team.

“I hope to get into the French team. It’s my dream. I feel like I have a big chance because my coach in Dubai, Mohamed El Zanaty Monir, was an Olympic swimmer (from Egypt). He has a lot of experience. He has used all his experience over the years with me, so I am trying to become as strong as I can to become the best,” said Elias who has already set two French national records (2008 age group) in 50m and 100m butterfly events.

“First I was mostly focusing on 50 metres and 100 metres. I was the sprinter. Those events are my strong points. Then slowly I started focusing more on distance swimming. It’s like the 200m and the 400m. But now in the competitions, my favourite races are the 100 metres, 50 and 200. My favourite strokes are the freestyle and butterfly,” he said.

Elias then doffed his hat to Dubai for providing him with a wonderful opportunity to chase his dream amid a raging pandemic.

“In my opinion, the facilities in Dubai are better than France because they have everything here. Now with Covid, if I was in France, I would not have been able to train. But here in Dubai, I have been able to train any day and anytime,” he said before revealing his biggest dream.

“I would love to go to the Olympics. That’s my biggest dream. But my immediate goal is to get into the French team.”


Rituraj Borkakoty

A big fan of the Argentina national football team, Rituraj generally writes on sports. But he deeply cherishes the time he spent with his favourite musician from Assam, India, for an interview. And he loves to bring human interest stories to Khaleej Times readers.

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