Swimmer Al-Yamani strives for success beyond M block
// Kyler Ludlow
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Whether as a male swimmer at the University of Michigan or as Yemen’s representative on the international stage, Mokhtar Al Yamani has always had ambitious goals. While he was Wolverine, he helped UM win a Big Ten Championship; but on the biggest stages of sport he was able to accomplish more than medals.
Al-Yamani has spent the past six years competing internationally for Yemen. Whether it was the World Championships, the Asian Games or the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, Al-Yamani proudly donned the colors of his father’s home country and strove to swim. in Yemen a more achievable goal for others.
“What motivates me the most is being able to represent a country that is under-represented, under-supported and, quite frankly, politically unstable at the moment,” Al-Yamani said. “To be able to travel the world to represent Yemen is really special to me. I know it is very difficult to support me like they did, but I hope my performances inspired people. “
In Yemen, athletes have participated in international events in the past, but more as a representation than as a real competitor. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics was the first time a swimmer from Yemen had qualified for the games via timed qualifying, and it was very special for Al-Yamani. Not only was the Olympics a relative home event for the Tokyo native, it was once again an opportunity to compete on the national stage with his coach, Mike Bas.
“Mike had always talked about becoming an international presence,” Al-Yamani said. “He always had very high expectations of me, and together I think we could have dreamed big. To be able to have achievements and come back with medals and make all of Yemen really proud was such a special moment. Mike went with it. me at the Arab Games and the Olympics too, and it’s cool traveling the world with a guy who is always supporting you and around you. “
Mike At the bottom left), Mokhtar Al-Yamani
Bottom, who was scheduled to compete in the 1980 Summer Olympics which the United States boycotted, was in his seventh Olympics as a coach at the Tokyo 2020 Games. He represented the United States, Croatia , Serbia and now Yemen. This experience and expertise has opened up opportunities in Michigan for generations of Wolverine swimmers, which Al-Yamani appreciates.
“Last year Anthony Irvin (three-time Olympic gold medalist) trained with us which was an incredibly cool experience,” said Al-Yamani. “He was one of Mike’s first Olympians and he won gold in 2000 and 2016. It was cool training in an environment like Michigan where you are constantly exposed to amazing swimmers. are the people who have Olympic and international experience that made me go there myself. “
Even with COVID-19 protocols limiting his ability to get to his home, which was only 30 minutes from the Tokyo Olympics venue, it was still an experience of a lifetime.
“At the end of the day, the Olympics are the pinnacle of the sport, it’s what everyone dreams of,” Al-Yamani said. “And those Olympics were home games for me, which was super exciting. Despite the postponement and despite the changes that had to be made for COVID to adapt to COVID security, it was fantastic games. C ‘was always cool because my dad got to get involved with the Yemen Olympic Federation last year and he got to compete in the Olympics, so it was a really amazing experience. “
Al-Yamani has officially hung up his glasses now, retiring from competition following this year’s Arab Championships in Abu Dhabi. After winning a bronze medal in the 2018 edition of the games in Tunisia, Al-Yamani ended his career with a brilliant performance, winning two gold medals and a silver medal in his last international event.
“The 2018 Arab Championships were really special for me because my bronze medal was the first international medal Yemen has ever won in swimming,” Al-Yamani said. “To repeat that feat and do even better this year was really cool. I’m really excited to come out on a high note and move on to the next chapter in life.”
After years of being a student-athlete in Michigan, Al-Yamani is now ready to take on the role of a committed alumnus and lifelong supporter of Wolverine.
“Even though I’m less connected to who’s in the pool now, I really care about this program,” Al-Yamani said. “One of the things we really emphasize about the team is that when you represent Block M you represent years of people who came before you and also represent everyone who came after you.
“We are part of a very long timeline of amazing athletes. Knowing that I was given so much support during my time in Michigan and being able to fall into that timeline and do the same for others means a lot to me. . “