Gamal Assaad has always been one to embrace competition and learn from experience.
The Western University sophomore has already begun making his mark on the national swimming scene, having competed for Canada at last year’s Commonwealth Games as well as the Pan Pacific Championships.
Now he’s looking to qualify for the Pan American Games in the 100 metre butterfly during this week’s trials.
Having finished second at last year’s national trials in the same event, and second in the 50 metre butterfly earlier this week, the youngster has already raced in high-pressure environments, with some of the world’s biggest names.
“They’ve opened up my eyes and they’ve really taught me a lot,” Assaad said about his time at the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Championships. “One of the things that my coach wanted me to do, and some of the other people on the team wanted us rookies to do, is to look out and watch out for the older more professional people.
“Look at Michael Phelps and Chad Le Clos, those big name gold-medalists and see what they’re doing, how you can incorporate what they’re doing into your training and see what they’re doing with their technique, how they’re eating and what their routine is.”
A large part of Assaad’s development has been the work of the Western staff, most notably long-time head swimming coach Paul Midgley, a member of Canada’s swim team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
While Midgley noted the physical improvements over the past year for Assaad, the coach, has been just as impressed with his mindset and approach.
“He responds the way I want to see,” said Midgley, from his office at Western. “As Gamal said to me last week ‘I’m really excited to see what I can do,’ so he has a different approach to it, and that’s a winner’s mentality.
“He sees this as an opportunity to demonstrate the work he’s done and the progress he’s made over the year, and that’s one of the character traits of someone who excels at that level.”
While the ultimate goal remains qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the upcoming Pan American Games hold a special meaning to the mechanical engineering student.
Recalling his time at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and how the home crowd stood by their swimmers, Assaad hopes to encounter a similar feeling with his own national crowd during the Pan American Games.
“That’s the kind of environment that we all want to experience, when you hear a Canadian’s name called out, there’s definitely going to be that huge crowd that’s cheering,” he said.
“You’re going to have a lot of people there watching you perform and that’s truly where you’ll feel very excited, really feel motivated to perform and do really well in those races.”
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