SHANGHAI – Libyan swimmer Sofyan Elgidi finished last in his heat in the 100-metre butterfly at the world championships Friday. To him, getting here was all that mattered.
Elgidi is the only swimmer representing his country in Shanghai. Because of the turmoil in his country, the 19-year-old has no coach or team manager with him.
“I’m basically here by myself,” he told The Associated Press after his swim in the morning preliminaries. “It’s very hard, but it has to be done. That’s all I can say. You’ve got to get through. You can’t let anything stop you.”
Elgidi finished in 58.38 seconds, more than six seconds behind the top qualifier for the semifinals, Tyler McGill of the United States. He ended up in 57th place out of 66 starters.
Though Elgidi has lived in Egypt with his immediate family for the last three years, he said the civil war in his homeland has wreaked havoc with his training and preparations. His plans to train in the United States were put on hold when fighting broke out this year.
“It was the biggest distraction,” he said. “I really can’t do anything. I had to fend for myself.”
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But he was determined to make it to Shanghai at all costs. Because he grew up in Canada and has a Canadian passport, he was able to get a visa for China. He paid for airfare himself.
“Anything for swimming,” he said. “This is my first world championships.”
His thoughts, however, haven’t strayed far from his family in Libya. He said his uncles and two of his grandparents are in Tripoli. He doesn’t speak to them often. The last time he was in the country was November, months before the government protests began.
“They’re not saying anything basically,” he said. “They can’t say anything because they’re monitored on the phones.”
He’s optimistic about competing for his homeland at the 2012 London Olympics.
“After everything clears up in Libya, I’ll hopefully get focused and stay on track,” he said. “I’m just with the country.”