Swimwatch has followed Eyad’s progress through the Mare Nostrum tour and the FINA World Championships. Eyad arrived back in New Zealand on Thursday night. It seems appropriate to conclude with a blog that reviews his performance and suggests lessons for the future.

Foreign travel quickly reveals true character. The response of athletes to overseas tours fall into one of three categories.

Some see the opportunity as an excuse to party, party, party. I remember talking to a well-known New Zealand runner about an American athlete we knew. I commented how sad it was that the American was running so badly. My New Zealand friend snorted and replied, “Perhaps if he spent a night sleeping in his own bed, he would run better.” Temptations to eat, drink and misbehave are huge on big sporting trips.

I have also seen athletes overcome by the experience. A few years ago, I took a team to the New South Wales Championships. A promising swimmer walked into the Homebush Olympic Pool and burst into tears. “I can’t swim here,” she said. The size of the pool, the flags, the lights, the spectator seating and the live music were all too much. No amount of explaining that the pool was the same size as the one she swam in every day in New Zealand would calm her fears. She swam terribly and couldn’t wait to get home. Another swimmer I took to Mare Nostrum had the same problem. She left the team after the first event in Barcelona to fly home to the United States.

And the third category respond positively to the whole experience. This is the life of a professional athlete. What a great opportunity. And they get on with their job in a professional, low key and balanced manner. I’ve watched a number of fine athletes on tour. Walker, Quax, Dixon, Loader, my wife Alison, my daughter Jane and Olympic gold medalist Rhi. All of them followed the rules of this third category. This was their job. This is what they were on tour to do. At a meet in West Berlin, I remember Alison telling me how much better it was running with 40,000 people watching. That is the sign of a professional.

This trip has confirmed Eyad as a category three member. I have been delighted with his calm professionalism. He may not be the fastest swimmer yet, but he has certainly demonstrated the personal qualities that could take him there.

The table below sets out the result of Eyad’s races.

Monaco 50 free 23.85 24.38 No
Monaco 50 fly 25.89 26.27 No
Monaco 100 fly 1.00.48 59.79 Yes
Barcelona 50 free 23.85 24.01 No
Barcelona 50 fly 25.89 25.95 No
Canet 50 free 23.85 24.31 No
Canet 50 fly 25.89 25.84 Yes
Budapest 50 fly 25.84 25.27 Yes
Budapest 100 fly 59.79 59.78 Yes
Budapest 50 Fr TT 23.85 23.77 Yes

Ten races in six weeks. Five PBs for a 50% ratio. By any standards that is a successful outcome. In the best tradition of athletes who have left New Zealand to take on the world, Eyad is tough, he is professional and he will deliver his very best.

And so, what have we learned? Has the trip taught us anything that can progress Eyad’s swimming to world class?

With thanks to three sources, we have been provided with information that shines a light into Eyad’s swimming future.

First there is the knowledge Eyad has gained through contact with swimming legends such as Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Anthony Ervin. Even sitting in the wait room with swimmers like Caleb Dressel is a maturing experience. But I must thank coaches like Andy McMillan, Graham Smith, Michelle Gillies and Gary Francis for their knowledge and assistance in getting Eyad through this six weeks. Swimming in New Zealand is in good hands with people like these in control.  

Second, the knowledge we gained through watching Eyad compete at this level is invaluable. Where is he competitive? Where is there ground to make up? It was all there on full display.

And third, the analysis of each race provided by High Performance Sport New Zealand’s Elliot Snedden. The statistical confirmation that what we were seeing in Eyad’s races was confirmed is worth its weight in gold.

So, what is there to work on? Here is how I described it to Eyad in a recent newsletter.

“TECHNIQUE – better underwater at the start, improved and longer kick, less swimming.

POWER – more power in the middle section to hold 8% more of your dive speed. Lift heavier weights in the gym.

AEROBIC FITNESS – hold your 35m speed through to the finish. More swims around the swimming Waitakeres. Ah, the joys of those 10k sessions.”

No report on Eyad’s trip would be complete without mentioning that the day Eyad arrived back in New Zealand he tested positive for Covid. How’s that for good timing. And so, our start to the new program is going to have to wait a couple of weeks while Eyad gets through and over all that.

Thank you again to all those who have helped Eyad through his first international swimming trip. Swimming New Zealand, FINA, the IOC and the NZOC have all played a part in making this journey possible. Thank you. It has been invaluable.   

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