Can Baqlah Continue His Medal Rush In Ashgabat?
Eighteen-year-old Khader Baqlah has become a household name in his native Jordan.
Last summer the talented swimmer broke the Jordan record for the men’s 200m Freestyle whilst also winning his heat at the Rio Olympics in style.
While his heat result didn’t book him a place in the semi-finals, it announced the striking teenager’s arrival on the world arena, having knocked five seconds off the national record in the space of a year.
Since then, he has moved to the USA to continue his studies at the University of Florida, and it is obviously working wonders for his career – Baqlah travelled with his beloved Jordan in May to win two golds and a bronze at the recent Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku.
Baqlah has a busy second half of the year, mixing college commitments with competing at the World Championships in July, and then traveling to Turkmenistan for the historic Ashgabat 2017 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, which are being held in the Turkmen capital between 17 and 27 September.
“It is important that I come back to compete for Jordan whenever I can.”
“I love my country and want to do my best to make it proud. Seeing the flag raised twice in Azerbaijan because of me is something I will never forget, and I want more success for Jordan.”
Khader is the younger brother of two-time Olympian Talitha, who has also been named in the Jordan squad for Ashgabat.
The two have been trained by coach Dr Ali Al Nawaiseh since they were young children, and he will again be pool side when they compete in September.
“My sister has been a big influence on me and I owe everything to coach Ali who has been so supportive all of these years.”
Finding the right balance between studying engineering and training has taken time for Khader, who has also had to adjust to living away from family in a new country.
“My first few months were really tough,” he recalls. “Everything is new and I’m alone trying to understand how everything works in swimming as well as school. I’m getting used to it now so things are becoming much better and I have good people around me to help me out and support me. My education is very important.”
Khader has become somewhat of a poster boy in his native Jordan and his fan base even stretches to China where he was called the “swimming Justin Bieber” on social media.
“I continue to receive huge interest in my progress since the Olympics and I want to tell everyone that I can’t wait to compete for my country again in Ashgabat.”
Baqlah is expected to compete in the 100m, 200m and the 400m at Ashgabat 2017, with the Short Course Swimming competition commencing on 22 September at the state of the art Aquatics Centre.