I have lived in Tanzania my whole life and thanks to swimming, I have been provided with multiple opportunities to represent the country in international events around the world.
This October I was given the chance to represent Tanzania in the Youth Olympic Games that were held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
I left Heathrow to go to Ethiopia, which is where I met up with the rest of the Tanzanian team. The team was comprised of four athletes and two coaches. I was a bit afraid of travelling so far by myself, but having one of my good friends from home competing with me and my coach from when I was younger coming along with us, helped fill me with optimism. After the 7-hour flight to Ethiopia I had another 16-hour flight left to reach Argentina which, unfortunately, was extremely uncomfortable. However, when I reached I was suddenly filled with excitement. A bus was parked, ready to take us and the other athletes that came on the same flight to the Youth Olympic Village.
When we reached the village we had to pass an x-ray with our bags. There were volunteers posted around the clock, that guided us to where we could eat and then to our rooms. The village was huge! There was first the main square, which was where all the athletes would go to socialize and hang out in their free time. Then there were food trucks, activities, a small football pitch, table tennis tables, a stage which was used for karaoke every night, and 3D paintings all over the floor. After a bit of exploring we entered the residential area. It was clear to see that this village was like no other, filled with around 4,000 of the world’s best athletes aged 15 to 18 from 206 different countries around the world. They would be competing against each other in 32 sports over the course of the next two weeks. There were always people walking on the well lit streets dressed up in their team kit and had their accreditation around their necks which was the most important article you needed to have with you. It allowed you to enter the village, the residential area, the dining hall, the transport services, as well as the Olympic parks and venues.
I had a few days of preparation before my races. I competed in the 100 and 200 meters freestyle events. When I saw the pool for the first time it reminded me of the other pools at world championships I’ve attended throughout the years, but the importance of this event was like nothing I’ve ever seen. This is possibly why it took some time to get used to the size, temperature and quality of the pool, however it soon became familiar in the days leading up to my races. My races went quite acceptably. Though I did not make my personal bests I tried the best I could at that time, and it would be an experience I was able to learn and improve from.
It was crazy to think that I was surrounded by some of the best young athletes in the world. The idea was mind-blowing. Not only was I able to participate and be apart of such an event, I was exposed to different people and cultures. I made friends that told me their own stories and what they have sacrificed to be where they are now. I am very thankful for this wonderful opportunity, as I have gained a lot of inspiration from it. It truly was one of the most memorable moments of my life so far and I will cherish that forever.