Skip to main content
Start of main content.

Omar's incredible Olympic journey

Omar Abbass
2024 Paris Olympics competitor Omar Abbass. 

Every swimmer knows about commitment - the 5am starts come rain, hail or shine make sure of that.

But few can lay claim to the level of determination shown by Bond’s latest Olympian Omar Abbass of Syria. 

Many times he could have been excused for giving up on his Olympic dream. 

There was the day bombs rained down on his training complex during his country’s civil war, destroying the pool and claiming four lives.

“I was swimming in a 100m training race when the first bomb went off. I jumped straight out of the pool, went to the change rooms and got out. The first bomb hit the hotel and then the second bomb hit the pool,” he said.

“I remember running to the car with my dad and the bombs were going off around us.

“There were about 12 that went off in the attack. It killed a football player and three other people who were staying in the hotel next door.

“It was crazy. We are lucky to be alive.”

There were other challenges, albeit not life-threatening.

Winter temperatures in Damascus hover between five and seven degrees. With war disrupting the supply of fuel to heat the pool, Abbass had no choice but to harden up and push through icy conditions few Olympic swimmers could imagine.

Then when World Aquatics helped him to leave Syria and join a training camp in Thailand, COVID struck, forcing him and his fellow athletes into strict lockdown conditions that left him without an opportunity to swim a qualifying time for the Tokyo Games. 

His luck changed when Bond University signed a partnership with World Aquatics to be the Australian training base for their scholarship athletes from developing swimming nations. 

“To be in a facility like Bond University is like a dream and to even be in Australia is a dream,” he said.

However, another obstacle remained – producing a personal best time at 25 years of age, which any athlete will tell you is no mean feat.

Bond head coach Chris Mooney, Director of Swimming Kyle Samuelson and development coach Zander Hey devised a plan where Abbass would train for the 400m with the development squad in the mornings to build endurance and then sprint with the elite program in the afternoons to work on speed. 

“He arrived in December just as we were about to go on Christmas break, so do the maths - this was far from a normal Olympic preparation,” Mooney said. 

“He did his first three races meets in Australia in heavy training, which is hard going, but he trusted the plan and was very accountable in every session.

“Zander has been working with him on skills and the extra Ks that he needs which has worked out really well as he's now been selected for the 200m freestyle. 

“Everyone - the athletes and staff - are super proud of Omar and we are grateful to have him. He brings a great dynamic to our Bond team.’’

If they handed out medals for positive attitudes and gratitude, Abbass would be guaranteed a spot on the podium in Paris.

It didn’t seem possible but the widest smile at the Bond pool stretched even further this week when he received the official confirmation of his selection from the Syrian national swimming body. 

“Going to the Olympics is the big goal for all the athletes in the world and to be an Olympian is the dream, I am very happy to have made it,” he said.

“I have one more month of training here and I will do the Australian Olympic trials next week as preparation for the Olympics.”

It remains to be seen if he can make his mark in the pool in an event that features some of the giants of the sport, but you can bet he will give it his all.

What is beyond doubt is the impact he will have in the athletes’ village.

“The village is very big, it’s where we will meet all the athletes, all of them the best athletes in the world,” he said.

“It’s not something small to meet these people, so it will be pretty nice to be surrounded by some of the world’s top athletes. 

“I am excited to watch other sports too, especially basketball. 

“My country has qualified for a few other sports, so watching those will be good. 

“Last Olympics our weightlifter won bronze so watching him maybe doing it again would be cool.”

More from Bond

  • Bull Sharks primed for Ladies Day at The Canal

    Rugby preview: The players vow to rise to the occasion against Brothers.

    Read article
  • Full team effort needed as Bull Sharks enter finals

    Netball preview: It's crunch time for the Sapphire and Ruby sides as they enter knock-out finals.

    Read article
  • State stars back for clash with Roos

    AFL preview: The Bull Sharks will take a strong side into the game against Maroochydore .

    Read article
  • Bond at the Olympics: Brent Livermore

    In the countdown to the Paris Games we will celebrate Bond's proud Olympic history. In this edition we profile Gold medalist Brent Livermore.

    Read article
  • Bull Sharks put the steel in Paralympics squad

    Bond wheelchair rugby players Ella Sabljak, Brayden Foxley-Connolly and Emilie Miller make the Steelers team for Paris Paralympics.

    Read article
Previous Next