By Rod Gilmour
BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Two years after 10-year-old Bahraini swimmer Alzain Tareq caused a media frenzy as the youngest ever competitor at a world championships, up stepped her best friend to continue the trend in the Hungarian capital.
Ritaj Amin finished 58th of 59 competitors in the women’s 50 meters butterfly heats on Friday morning, the same event that Tareq raced in at the 2015 championships in Kazan.
The 13-year-old, the youngest competitor in Budapest, clocked 35.69 seconds, over 10 seconds slower than Swedish sprint sensation Sarah Sjostrom.
“I have been talking to her about the experiences,” Amin told reporters. “Although it is a higher rank, she just said to have fun.”
Asked what it was like lining up in a field including Sjostrom, the 4ft 11in Bahraini admitted it was “mind-blowing”.
Amin has banked a wealth of experience at these championships by seeking out swimming’s top names to ask them for advice on her technique, particularly her heroes American Katie Ledecky, Katinka Hosszu of Hungary and Britain’s Adam Peaty.
“Katinka is an all-rounder who tries new things every single competition,” Amin said. “Katie sprints the whole race in the 800m and I want to do that. I love the way Adam Peaty swims.” Amin started swimming at the age of seven in the same year that Bahrain first competed at the world championships.
“It’s not a lot of time to get to this kind of level and so I’m really proud of what I have achieved,” she said.
She was watched at the Duna Arena by her mother and brother, adding extra emotion to the event for the youngster.
“I was too scared to look up at them as I was shaking before I got on the block,” said the 2020 Tokyo Olympic hopeful. “If I saw her I would have started to cry.”
The night before her race, in which she posted a personal best 35.69 seconds, Amin took three hours to get to sleep.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about my technique. I was watching some Olympic races to see if I could copy something and then I just fell asleep.”
Although Amin is currently aged 13, her birthday is in December so she qualifies to compete under world governing body FINA’s rules.
Following Tareq’s entry in Kazan, FINA changed the age limit to 14. She entered the Guiness Book of Records and her feat is unlikely to be broken in the foreseeable future.
(Editing by Ed Osmond and Christian Radnedge)