Yaqoob Al Saadi is hoping to make an impact on the global scene this summer when he competes in the Rio 2016 Olympics for the first time. The 20 year old SPEEDO swimmer is currently the UAE National record holder for the 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke and the GCC record holder for the 100m Backstroke. SFME caught up with the athlete to find out his Olympic goals and to see what tips he has to share with swimmers in this region.
SFME: How is preparation going for Rio 2016?
Yaqoob Al Saadi: Preparation is going well. I am healthy and making constant improvements in training. Now I just have to continue to be disciplined and train hard.
SFME: Are you nervous about representing your country for the first time?
Yaqoob: I wouldn’t describe my feelings as nervousness, but rather excitement. I’m honoured to represent my country to the best of my ability and to race the very best in the world.
SFME: What is your goal in the Olympics?
Yaqoob: I can only control my own performance, so my goal is to break my personal records that are UAE records as well. If my preparation goes according to plan, I can swim faster than ever and that is my only goal.
SFME: You must be proud of how much the standard of swimming has evolved in the UAE? What do you think this comes down to?
Yaqoob: Yes, the standard of swimming in the UAE has improved steadily in the past few years. This is mostly due to the increased support from people in the background. The swimming federation has provided us with expert coaches, training camps and international competition opportunities. As the popularity of the sport keeps rising more and more potential swimmers will start training and the standards will keep improving. It’s definitely an exciting time for swimming and the UAE in general and I’m proud to be part of it. For example, Speedo Swim Squads work hard to offer teaching and coaching to all abilities from beginner to national level and we’re now seeing results coming through and athletes reaching a competitive standard, which is fantastic.
SFME: You are at the top of the game in your sport in the region, how do you plan to change your training and diet to get to the next level on the international stage?
Yaqoob: I have to increase my training volume and intensity slowly to international levels. There are no secrets to better performance, just consistent hard work over a sustained period of time. I’m aware I will have to make sacrifices to get to Olympic standard, and I’m ready to take on the challenge.
SFME: What would a regular week consist of in terms of training in the gym/swimming/competing in competitions?
Yaqoob: I train six-nine times a week in the pool. I have yet to start a strength-training programme, but this will be a priority as we move forward. The number of competitions depends on the season, but on average we compete once every one-two months.
SFME: Has SPEEDO’s swimming gear helped get the best out of you in the water?
Yaqoob: I use Speedo equipment both in competition and training. Speedo racing suits are the best in the world and give me that extra boost I need when competing. They are athlete approved, which means they are worn by and created alongside some of the world’s fastest swimmers. In terms of technical details the innovative design means the suits are very easy to move in, with support seams promoting better body positioning. If my swimming heroes are wearing Speedo kit, I am more than happy to follow their lead!
SFME: Have you got any tips for backstroke swimmers to help them improve their times?
Yaqoob: If we’re talking about competitive swimmers, a large part of practice time should be devoted to the start, turn and underwater skills. The underwater dolphin kick is faster than surface swimming and equally important as improving your swimming skills. I would encourage more recreational swimmers to focus on the basics: streamlining, kicking and working on their pulling technique.