At just 20 years of age, Talita Baqlah is one of the more experienced athletes in the Team Jordan Rio delegation having competed at the Olympic Games in London four years ago.
She was pool side on Sunday when her younger brother Khader smashed the Jordan record for the 200m freestyle and provided words of wisdom to ease her sibling’s nerves befotre he competed.
But on Friday (after 7pm Jordan time) the mathematics student will be contending with nerves of her own as she bids to break the Jordan record for the 50m freestyle and make an impact of her own on the Games.
She has come a long way from the shy 16-year-old who nervously competed in London, but a familiar face is by her side once again in Rio.
“We haven’t had a long time to prepare Talita for Rio but she has worked hard over the past month,” said coach Dr Ali Al Nawaiseh who has worked with Talita over the past decade.
“She is obviously more mature and far more confident this time around than she was in London and she will have a good go at the Jordan record.”
That record of 26.57 seconds was set by Talita in Hungary last month, a result that secured her wild card entry at the Olympics. In comparison, the personal best she set in the pool in London was 27.45 seconds.
“I only knew I was coming to Rio a month ago so training has been stepped up over the last few weeks and since I got here,” said Talita. “I feel well prepared now. In London I was nervous and afraid but here I am excited for the event. I am looking forward to the race.”
Talita’s Olympic experience has been invaluable in settling her bother, and other first time Olympians, into life in the Athletes’ Village.
“London was an awesome experience so to be able to do it all over again here in Rio de Janeiro has been amazing. But I am focussed on my race and want to try and set a new fastest time for Jordan and also improve my world ranking.”
Talita said that Khader’s achievement on Sunday has sparked a huge interest in the delegation back home in Jordan and says she has been overwhelmed by the messages of support.
“I think more people are following our progress here than we had in London which has been really nice,” she said. “The support is very much appreciated and I will try to do my best in the pool.”
Like her brother, qualification to the semi-finals is an unrealistic proposition given the calibre of world swimming, and a time of sub-25 seconds would be required. The world record is an incredible 23.73 seconds.
But nevertheless, Khader and Talita’s times show that the sport is certainly heading in the right direction and catching up fast with the world’s best.