Was it really only six months ago that Khader Baqlah announced himself as a true Jordan sporting hero at the Rio Olympic Games?
As a 17-year-old, the swimmer set a new Jordan record in the 200m freestyle to win his heat and prove that he is one of the sport’s fastest developing talents in the pool.
In a 12-month period, Khader knocked a whopping five seconds off the record and has continued his form since, leading to a scholarship to attend Florida University where he has already featured for the swimming team The Gators.
Now 18, Khader took silver recently in the 200 freestyle at the prestigious SEC meet and also joined his teammates in winning gold in the 800 relay. He is now in the team for the upcoming NCAA meet which will feature the best student swimmers across the whole of the USA.
The future looks bright and we caught up with him to find out how life is going in the USA.
How tough was the decision to leave Jordan and head for the USA?
It was a hard decision leaving my family friends and especially my coach and teammates who I am used to training with every day. But it’s a decision I made from the beginning because I wanted to take the opportunity and train with top ranked swimmers and to learn from the best. Also because of the better facilities they have that we miss in Jordan.
How have the first two months gone in Florida?
My first two months were really tough. Everything is new and I’m alone trying to understand how everything works in swimming as well as school. I’m getting used to it now so things are getting much better and I have good people around me to help me out and support.
How different is the training?
Training is harder here because I have more training sessions per week and also more mileage per practice.
Is there any area they have identified on your technique/physique that they want to work on?
I’m working hard to improve my flip turns as well as my starts
Talk us through the SEC's and how it went for you?
The Southeastern Conference Universities (SEU) all go against each other for five days trying to win as many races as they could to get the highest score they can. It’s the second most important meet for the university after the NCAA. The team trained hard for it and everyone was focused so we managed to win it and get the title. That was obviously a huge success and I was honoured to play my part in the win.
How is student life in Florida compared to Amman?
As a normal student you have to study hard just like everyone else whether I am in Florida or in Amman. My education is very important. However, being a student athlete here means they will help out when missing classes due to competition.
What are you studying?
I am studying engineering but I am still undecided what kind of engineering to pursue.
When will we see you next compete for Jordan?
I am scheduled to take part in the Islamic Solidarity Games for Jordan in May
Any message for your followers over here?
I continue to receive huge interest in my progress since the Olympics and I want to reassure everyone that I can’t wait to compete for my country. Thank you to everyone who supports me and has helped me to reach this point in my life.