Olympic Champ trains at the hpc

Posted on December 03, 2008

One of the biggest draw cards of the championships is the 1500m Olympic Freestyle Gold Medalist, Oussama Mellouli. The charismatic 24-year old Tunisian spent the week prior to the Championships preparing at the High Performance Centre at the University of Pretoria.

“Swimming at altitude is definitely a problem, so I came here to prepare for the African Swimming Championships.” Oussama will be attempting to win 11 races (at the time of writing he had won 3 Gold and 1 Bronze Medal – the bronze coming in the 50m backstroke, an unusual race for Mellouli). “I will be swimming in a number of races that are not my strong events, mainly for national pride but also as part of my training.”

Oussama will be swimming in the 50m, 100m, 400m, 800m, 1500m freestyle, the 50m, 100m, 200m backstroke, the 200m breaststroke, and the 200m and 400m individual medley. He is the African record holder in the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle, as well as the 400m individual medley.

His is an interesting story. As a youngster Oussama – or Ous – as his friends call him – was sent to the pool by his mother to learn to swim as a safety precaution. Oussama has two older brothers and he tagged along with them when they swam, which saw his natural competitiveness come to the fore.

At the age of 15 he left Tunis (capital of Tunisia) for France to finish his High School education where he was based for 2 years at Font Romeo in the West of France. (Like the HPC, Font Romoe is a High Performance Training Centre). A further year was spent in Marseille before a move to the United States to the University of Southern California where he studied Engineering. Ous is now doing a Masters Degree in Sports Management.

Although better known for his long distance swimming, Mellouli is no slouch over the shorter distances as his results in this years World Cup Series show. Mellouli won 5 Gold Medals in Durban and one Silver, 3 Golds and a Silver in Brazil, 3 Golds in Sydney, 2 in Moscow, 2 Golds in Stockholm and a Gold and Silver in Berlin.

On a continent where Soccer is the be all and end all of sport, with Athletics running second, it is amazing to see how one man’s success can inspire a nation. “In the last few years, whenever I am at home in Tunis I find that people are approaching me on the streets and thanking me for putting Tunisia on the World Map. People drive from far just to see where I live and I have noticed that more people are now found in the swimming pools since my breakthrough in 2005 (he won bronze and the World Championships in the IM).”

The impact though is even more evident when we look at the results at the African Championships. In 2007 Tunisia swept the podium in the 800m Freestyle for Men, won Gold and Silver in the 400m FS, Bronze in the 1500m, Gold and Silver in the 200m IM, Silver in the 4x200m Relay. The ladies were no less successful, 2 Gold Medals, 6 Silver and 3 Bronze Medals.

After Beijing the attention from home was even more pronounced than ever before and after 3 weks, Oussamma Mellouli needed to “escape”. He went back to the US to continue his training and the compete in the World Cup. “I did not want the post Olympic Hangover that so many athletes experience, so I entered the World Cup Series to stay competitive.”

For Mellouli 2012 is still a goal. “I will be 28 then so why not?” But first it is the World Championships in Rome in July next year.

Olympic Games

Gold 2008 Beijing 1500m Freestyle

World Championships - Long Course

Bronze 2003 Barcelona 400m Medley

Bronze 2005 Montreal[1] 400m Freestyle

Bronze 2005 Montreal 400m Medley

World Championships - Short Course

Bronze 2004 Indianapolis[2] 200m Medley

Gold 2004 Indianapolis 400m Medley

Mediterranean Games

Gold 2005 Almería 800m Freestyle

Gold 2005 Almería 200m Medley

Gold 2005 Almería 400m Medley

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