After months and months of careful planning and intense training, Egypt’s Mohammad Al Husseini has reached his moment of reckoning.
On Friday morning, at the crack of dawn, he will hope to do what no other Down syndrome kid has ever succeeded in history — to swim across the English Channel.
The long hours of training in the cold waters of Hurgada, Egypt, under the guidance of ‘Stroke for Egypt’ mentor Khaled Shalaby, are behind him. Al Husseini is all set to swim across the 21 mile (33.8 kilometres) of sea separating the United Kingdom and France.
Shalaby, who himself made history by becoming the first paraplegic to cross the Channel in 1983, will travel in the accompanying pilot boat along with an observer from the Channel Swimming Association (CSA).
“Mohammad is ready, we are ready,” Shalaby told Gulf News from his hotel in Samphire Hoe. “Inshallah, we start this incredible journey early in the morning.
“Mohammad will be swimming continuously or non-stop for approximately 12 to 15 hours, except for hydration and nourishment stops. With the water temperature at an estimated 17 degrees Celsius, it is not going to be easy. But then we were under no illusions that what Mohammad was attempting, was going to be easy,” he added.
“Mohammad has been training for the past 18 months. He swims eight hours daily. Every Friday he swims between 15 to 17 kilometres.”
Shalaby explained that the condition programme that Mohammad has followed includes physical and psychological training, while simulating the difficulties and challenges that a swimmer may have to deal with like water currents and the low temperatures.
“This dream began three years ago,” said the Egyptian aquaman. “It has been an incredible journey to get to this point. Mohammad is a different person now to the one he was 18 months ago, when we launched the Channel swim training programme.
“He has matured physically and emotionally. He is a lot more confident and has never doubted his ability as a swimmer.
“This means everything for me, as Mohammad’s coach and mentor. Challenges like this are what we live for. For me, my country, all Arab nations and for anybody who understands what it is to conquer the English Channel,: he added.
“We are doing this for Egypt and for the UAE, who have been supporting Mohammad from day one.
“We could not have even started this without the support of the American University in the Emirates (AUE) and its president and CEO Prof. Muthanna G. Abdul Razzaq.
“Our boat will display both the UAE and Egyptian flags. Inshallah, when Mohammad completes the Channel swim he will raise both flags to show his love for both countries and send out a message to all Arab youngsters and all youngsters with disabilities around the world.” said Shalaby.
“The Channel swim is the ultimate target for all open water swimmers from around the world. It’s the Mount Everest in swimming. and hopefully, by God’s grace, Mohammad will scale that peak on Friday.”
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