Abbas Qali, 23, is a Kuwaiti swimmer who will be competing in the Rio 2016 Olympics, however, he won’t be representing his home country. Instead he will be competing as an Independent Olympic Athlete.
This is due to Kuwait being banned, for the third time since 2007, by the International Olympic committee.
Abbas, a graduate of the University of Alabama, set his first goal time, which surpassed the Olympics qualifying time, at the age of 19, and hasn’t missed a single practice since then.
He moved to Alabama, where he got a Bachelors degree in exercise and sport science, with the intention of accomplishing his dream and qualifying for the Olympics.
His dream of competing at the Olympics began when he started swimming at age six, but this dream became more serious when he watched the 2004 Athens Olympics. He recalls thinking to himself, “Why can’t I be there, competing with those swimmers?”
The Olympics is special to Abbas because it gives him and other athletes the chance to compete against each other, validating their skills and hard work.
Abbas has always enjoyed racing freestyle because it’s the fastest among all swim strokes, although his strengths lie in the butterfly stroke – which explains his qualification in the 100m butterfly race at the Olympics.
“Unfortunately I won’t be lifting the Kuwaiti flag at the Olympics,” Abbas wrote in an email. “I will be representing myself and the IOC [International Olympic Committee].”