Faye Sultan was the first Kuwaiti female swimmer to compete in the Olympics. She placed first in her heat at the summer games in Rio this year, with a time of 26.86 seconds to finish 54th out of 88 competitors. Kuwait Moms Guide spoke with the young swimmer to learn more about what led up to her Olympic achievements.
Kuwait Moms Guide: Please tell us a bit about how you get involved in swimming?
Faye: My older brother was a competitive tennis player and I witnessed his dedication to his sport on a daily basis. He inspired me to pursue swimming competitively. I swam alone for a few years before joining Elite Swim team in Kuwait. I also trained with the National team before heading to London.
KMG: What other competitions have you swam in?
Faye: I have competed in the Junior World Championships in 2011, and the World Championships in 2013 and 2015. I have also competed at the NESCAC championships and the NCAA Div. IV championships, both for 4 years in a row.
KMG: What led you to decide to try for the Olympics in Rio?
Faye: I've been training and competing internationally for the past 10 years. Before college, I trained in Kuwait on the Elite Swim Team. The past 4 years, however, I competed and trained with the Williams College Swimming team. During this time, I was coached by the Williams college coaching staff.
KMG: Can you tell us a bit about what it takes to qualify for the Olympics and especially the obstacles you faced and how you overcame them?
Faye: In college, I had swim practice every afternoon, and then on alternating days I would have a morning lift and swim. I would work out 2-3 times a day, on average, and I would compete every weekend. There are a lot of ups and downs with any sport. For example, this season I was injured and I had a disappointing college season. I just had to keep my head up and power through. I ended up swimming my fastest time to date at Rio.
KMG: You are among only a handful of elite female Olympians from the Gulf - how does being a woman impact your identity as an athlete? What is your opinion on women athletes in the region, their access to sports, their support among the public, from the govt, etc?
Faye: It is a great honor to be able to represent your country on a platform as high as the Olympics, regardless of gender, but being able to do so while overcoming such obstacles makes it an even greater feat. There is a lot of talent in Kuwait and it needs to be cultivated. One way to do that is by having better facilities available to women.
KMG: How did it feel to be the first female swimmer from Kuwait at the Olympics?
Faye: It's an honor to be the first Kuwaiti female Olympic swimmer. My hope is that I will not be the last, and to see more women participating in the Olympics would be a great next step.
KMG: You won your heat but did not qualify, how has that result affected you? Will you try for the Olympics in 2020? What are your next plans?
Faye: I swam a best time, so I couldn't have been happier. I have been swimming for so long that a small break is long overdue. As for Tokyo 2020, it's too soon to tell.
KMG: What do you have to say to moms and kids - especially little girls - in Kuwait who might have Olympic dreams or are even keen athletes?
Faye: Dream big, and work hard for yourself and for your country. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy!