BEIRUT: Ask any athlete what the zenith of their careers may involve, or which stage they would give their right arm to grace, and all would be remising if the Olympics games was not atop of the list. Wael Kobrosly, Lebanon’s finest swimmer and the Arab world’s second best, has had the enviable honor (of course through his own merit) of gracing the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Attaining over 20 local swimming records including 1’07”36 in the 100-meter breaststroke, and 2’25”39 in the 200-meter breaststroke, Kobrosly has solidified his status as the nation’s best. His achievements mirror a laundry list, with one item after another paying precedence to a repertoire of the highest order.
The Daily Star had the pleasure of speaking with Kobrosly, who was in the country to participate in the Olympic qualifiers for next month’s Games.
The swimming supernova was in imperious form as he dismantled his competition with consummate ease to book his place in London this summer.
Kobrosly was overtly elated, and he swiftly reminisced about his previous Olympic experience, which he holds dear in his heart.
“The Olympics are an amazing experience. Even though I rate the world championships, they do not compare to the Olympics,” he said. “The Games involve all sorts of disciplines, not just swimming, so to participate and contribute to the proceedings is a great honor.
“China added another dimension to the Games with their excellent organization, which made it a wonderful experience. Swimmers work around a four-year schedule, in preparation for the Olympics, so to see all my efforts finally rewarded after four years of work and dedication was great. While there, I met the best swimmers in the world, and learned a lot from them.”
Kobrosly’s formidable showing, garnered an immediate scholarship from Club Nautique Havrais, Le Havre France, where he trains under the watchful eye of head coach Christos Paparrodopoulos, and swims alongside three-time Olympic Bronze medalist, Hugues Duboscq.
In conjunction with swimming, Kobrosly continued his education, mastering in international marketing in Le Havre, following his Bachelor of Business from the University of St. Joseph in Lebanon.
The Beirut native was under no illusion regarding the longevity of his career, placing an abundance of emphasis on the necessity for supplementing his stellar swimming exploits with a fine education and an eye on the future.
“I can’t just rely on swimming as a career. At the end of the day, swimming doesn’t pay the bills,” he said. “Swimming is more of a lifestyle, and one day my career will come to an end, so my degrees are essential for when I venture into a new domain.
“We as swimmers rely on sponsors, and the odd prize money for tournaments, though in seven years I have not once received any in Lebanon.”
Kobrosly became the first Lebanese swimmer in history to receive a sponsorship after his talents caught the eye of Bank Audi Lebanon, who saw enough potential in the talented swimmer to reward him with a generous sponsorship deal.
For all the grueling hours and endless commitment that Kobrosly administers to the punishing world of swimming – which consists of a six-day regime of swimming from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., followed by weights from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and then swimming again from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., with university classes in between – one assuaging factor comes with the territory, food.
The 24-year-old confirmed the swirling hearsay – that swimmers consume an ungodly amount of food on a daily basis. He predicts a daily intake of between 4,000 to 6,000 calories, and pulls no punches when it comes to carbs, devouring rice, pasta and potatoes whenever need be.
“Yes it’s true, it’s unbelievable but true. We swimmers require a daily intake of thousands of calories to replenish our system regularly,” he explained. “Sometimes we train for no less than two-and-a-half hours straight, so we stop in between to consume a power bar.
“I can eat just about anything, as long as it isn’t junk food. Meat, chicken, rice, pasta, potatoes, nothing is off limits. Six hours of swimming a day makes me burn so many calories, that I eat huge amounts three times a day.”
Pun aside, Wael Kobrosly is due an incredible amount of credit and praise. Lebanon can only send one male and one female swimmer every four years to the Olympics, and the fact the Kobrosly has just collected his second birth in the last two Olympics is testament to this athlete’s talent.
People rarely dare to dream about Olympic qualification, and Kobrosly has qualified twice. In a society where you either sink or swim, he has peddled and pushed to come gushing to the top.