Big memorable moments at Olympic Games are few and far between for Jordan but yesterday (Sunday) we all had one to cherish.
Seventeen-year-old Khader Baqlah was first up in the heats for the 200m freestyle and not only did he manage to win the heat, he smashed his Jordan record by more than a second with a time of 1:48.42.
It was done in front of HRH Prince Feisal Al Hussein, the Jordan Olympic Committee (JOC) President, who described his performance as “brilliant”. It also brought huge applause from the 7,000 spectators in the Olympics Aquatics Centre in Rio de Janeiro.
His time wasn’t enough to make the semi-finals with 16th place clocking 1:47.15, but he did beat swimmers from the more recognised swimming countries of Great Britain, Italy, China and Spain.
Incredibly, Khader has managed to take almost five seconds off his Jordan record for the distance at an age when his body is still developing. He is also getting very quick over 100m and 400m.
“It was a moment we can all celebrate,” said Team Jordan spokesman David Williams, who is the Communications and Marketing Director at the Jordan Olympic Committee. “To put it into context, he has halved the time difference between him and the world’s best in just 12 months so at this progress he really does have the chance to become something special in the sport.
“It was refreshing to see Jordan unite on social media last night hailing his achievement. He may not have qualified and advanced to the semi-finals but his performance showed he is certainly on the right path towards achieving that in the future.”
The question many are asking now is just how fast can he go and that is why he looks set to become central to Jordan’s plans for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Youngsters are already signed up on JOC 2020 scholarships across several sports as Jordan sets out its long term strategy earlier than ever before in the pursuit of excellence.
Khader’s achievements are also making a big impact on swimming back home. Youngsters are gobbling up junior records and there is a genuine feeling that Khader could be ushering in a golden era for the sport.
“In Khader we have an exceptional role model,” added Williams. “He has excelled in his education and is maturing all the time as a truly great international swimmer. He will be one of our ‘faces’ for sport as we try to promote and encourage more Jordanians to make it a part of their everyday lives.”
In the meantime, Jordan can enjoy the arrival of a fine new role model and look forward to some more Team Jordan members giving their all for their country over the coming days. It may not bring medals, but it will bring a huge sense of national pride from the biggest stage of them all.
Next up is judo star Ibrahim Khalif on Wednesday.