Jordan’s history making brother and sister pairing of Talita and Khader Baqlah will be going for glory in the pool next week as they bid to set new national records in the swimming events at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The pair are the first Jordan siblings to compete at the same Games, and the man who knows them as well as anyone believes they are hitting the form of their lives.
Dr Ali Al Nawaiseh has worked with 20-year-old Talita and 17-year-old Khader for the best part of the last decade and has watched them mature into national champions.
“It is a case of trying to bring the best out of them without pushing their bodies too hard,” said Dr Ali who has been a key component of the sports scene in Jordan for 20 years.
“They are both in excellent condition and set new records for their disciplines only last month so there is a good chance that those times will be lower here in Rio as they are peaking at the right time.”
Both have enjoyed their first sessions in the world class Rio facilities which will be packed to the rafters with thousands of fans when the swimming events feature during the first week of the Olympics.
Talita is enjoying her second Olympics, having competed in the 50m freestyle in London four years ago.
“I believe I am better prepared this time around,” she said. “Nothing can really prepare you properly for the Olympics as it is such a massive event. But I believe my experience from four years ago will help us both.”
The pair competed superbly in Budapest last month, setting new Jordan records with Talita clocking 26.57 seconds in the 50m freestyle and Khader setting 1:49.55 in the 200m freestyle.
Khader has enjoyed a remarkable year. He will be the first ever Jordanian swimmer to enter an Olympics with a B qualifying time which he first recorded at the World Championships in Kazan last year.
That time was lowered in Bangkok in November, followed another record in Dubai in April before setting the current mark at the official time trial in Budapest. In all he has shaved nearly four seconds off his record over the past 12 months so a new personal best seems achievable when he goes first for Jordan on August 7.
“I am feeling very relaxed here in Rio now that I have had the opportunity to settle in the village and try out the pool,” he said. “My goal is to set a new record here for Jordan and to improve my world ranking.”
Khader also knows that a strong showing will alert the top universities to his talent as he bids to secure his next phase of education following the Games.
Meanwhile, Jordan Olympic Committee Secretary General Lana Jaghbeer dropped in to the Athletes Village to check on how the team has settled in. Al Jaghbeer met with chef de mission Nadin Dawani to discuss the latest developments and passed on her warm wishes to the athletes.
The swimmers are two of eight Jordanian athletes competing in Rio de Janeiro. Boxers Hussein Ishaiash and Obada Al Kesbeh have been getting used to their new surroundings while triathlete Lawrence Fanous was the latest to arrive on Monday night. Judo star Ibrahim Khalaf has also been acclimatising while marathon runner Mithqal Al Abbadi is stepping up his training. Taekwondo’s Ahmed Abu Ghaush will be the final athlete to arrive and he is expected in Brazil on August 10.