WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
August 8, 2010
National record holder Loai Tashkandi is following in the footsteps of swimming great Ahmed Al-Kudmani.
Kudmani retired in November 2007 after bringing home a 50-meter breaststroke silver medal in the 11th Pan-Arab Games. He left a lasting legacy in Saudi Arabia swimming
Kudmani had trained with six-time Olympic coach Michael Lohberg and Olympic breaststroker Vlad Polyakov for a summer honing his skills at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex. It was Kudmani who suggested that Tashkandi follow suit and train with Lohberg.
The hard work paid off.
Tashkandi, 19, won gold medals in the 200-meter individual medley and 200-meter freestyle and broke two Gulf records at the 17th GCC Aquatic Championships which are currently being held at the Hamad Aquatic Complex in Kuwait.
It is the most impressive performance by a Saudi Arabian swimmer since Kudmani made a name for himself in the sport.
Tashkandi won the 200 IM in a record 2:08.46. His splits were 27.6 (butterfly), 33.4 (backstroke), 37.5 (breaststroke) and 29.2 (freestyle).
Tashkandi also won the 200-meter freestyle in 1:55.83, another Gulf record. His splits were 26.9, 29.5, 29.8 and 29.4.
“It is an awesome feeling to win,” Tashkandi said. “I am happy that Michael is coaching me.”
Tashkandi’s passion for swimming started at age 6 when his father took him to the local Ali-Ahli Swim Club. The coach was impressed with his work ethic and skills. At 9, Tashkandi started competing with the national team.
Since then Tashkandi has represented his country well in several national and international competitions. During the summer he competed at the Mare Nostrum Tour in Europe with SOFLO.
Tashkandi has looked at Al-Kudmani as “an inspiring role model” and saw how training while studying in the United States benefitted him. Each time Al-Kudmani represented Saudi Arabia in international meets his times improved.
“I am more than honored to represent my country,” Tashkandi said. “The 2012 Olympics are my goal. I look forward to working on this goal during the next two years and hopefully bring honor to my country.”
Another SOFLO swimmer, Zain Qali, 22, of Kuwait, was second in the 50-meter butterfly and third in the 100-meter butterfly.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org