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チュニジアの伝説

2009年02月15日 07:36






 一転、陽気な気候に見舞われたロサンゼルス。昨日の内容あるレースの翌日とあってか、男女キャプテン主導の下、心も体もリフレッシュ。男子陣は、軽く泳いだ後、鬼ごっこ。女子陣は、軽く泳いだ後、シンクロ選手権をしていました。

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 オン、オフの切り替えがとても上手な選手達です。こういう風景を見ていると、ホントに水泳を楽しんでいるのだろうなと感じます。こんなことを考えているといつも頭に浮かぶのは、“オリンピックは楽しむつもりで出た”(Wikipediaより引用)という1996年当時の千葉選手の言葉です。アメリカの風に触れて、こういう感覚だったんだろうなと、強くその想いを感じます。




 日本では、楽しむ=遊ぶと誤解されがちですが、意味合いを言い換えると“充実する”と言った方がマッチするかもしれません。水泳を続ける道を選ぶのも、この辺が原動力になっているのではないかと思います。






Mellouli, a Tunisian legend
(チュニジアの伝説 Mellouli)

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In 2008, he got an Olympic gold in Beijing (CHN) and shone in the World Cup
(2008の北京五輪で金メダルを獲得し、ワールドカップで輝く)


“I want to follow the best”. Six years after expressing this desire to FINA Press Commission Member Chaker Belhadj in the pages of our magazine, Oussama Mellouli should now think that roles have been reversed: he is the leader, and many young swimmers would like to follow his example. In early 2003, coming from a six-gold medal haul at the African Swimming Championships (in August 2002 in Cairo), the Tunisian was already a confirmed talent on his continent. But to the rest of the world, he was still an unknown promising athlete who had been ‘discovered’ by American coaches and moved from France (where he studied and trained in Font-Romeu and Marseille for three years) to the University of Southern California (USA) in the summer 2002.

(“偉業を成し遂げたい”この願望をFINAの広報委員であるChaker Belhadj氏に機関紙の中で語った6年後、Oussama Mellouli選手は、今は逆の立場に変わったと思っているだろう。彼は先駆者であり、多くの若手選手が彼の後に続きたいと思っているだろう。2003年初頭、2002年のカイロのアフリカ選手権6冠という功績から、チュニジア人は彼の才能を認めていた。しかし他の国では、彼はアメリカ人コーチに発掘され未来を約束された無名選手にすぎず、当時の練習拠点であったフランスから南カリフォルニア大学へ2002年の夏に移籍したのであった。)


Member of the prestigious Trojans team, guided by Mark Schubert, ‘Ous’ has gone a long way since those days: in early 2009, he is already Olympic and world champion, completed a brilliant 2008 FINA/ARENA Swimming World Cup (where he got 28 victories!), but he is also the man who got a 18-month doping suspension and knew to come back and show to the world that the pill he took to stay awake was just a stupid and avoidable incident. Moreover, in Tunisia, Mellouli today is an icon for an entire nation: he is the second Olympic gold medallist ever from the country (after the success in 1968 of a track and field athlete), having received the highest awards from the hands of the Tunisian President, and the admiration of his fellow citizens.

(Mark Schubertコーチが率いる有名なTrojansのメンバーとして、Ous選手は、最近まで長い道のりを歩んだ。2009年初頭、彼は五輪、世界選手権の頂点に立ち、2008年のワールドカップでは、28勝という偉業を達成した。しかし、彼はまた、ドーピング違反で18ヶ月間の出場停止処分を受けた選手でもあり、解眠剤摂取という愚かな不注意な事件であったことが世界に知れ渡った。さらに現在、Mellouli選手はチュニジア全国民の肖像にもなっている。彼は、当国からの2人目の五輪金メダリストであり、チュニジア大統領から最高勲章を授受され、国民から賞賛されている。)




Born in Tunis on February 16, 1984, Mellouli’s entourage quickly understands that there are no conditions in the country for such a talent to develop. At the age of 15, he leaves Tunisia and continues his studies in Marseille (FRA), where he finds an environment more favourable for the improvement of his times and results. At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney he is 43rd in the 400m individual medley, he then skips the 2001 FINA World Championships in Fukuoka (JPN) and is still discreet at the 2002 FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in Moscow (RUS), where he ranks 15th in the 400m IM, 17th in the 400m free and 18th in the 1500m free. But his technique and potential are noticed among the experts on the pool deck and he is accepted in August 2002 at the University of Southern California.

(1984年2月16日にチュニジアに生まれ、彼の身近な人は、早々に彼の才能を伸ばす環境はこの国にはないと判断した。15歳の時に彼は、チュニジアを離れ、彼が探した記録向上により適した環境のフランス・マルセイユで練習に励んだ。2000年のシドニー五輪では、400m個人メドレーで43位、翌年の福岡世界選手権2001は出場せず、2002年のロシア・モスクワでの世界短水路選手権では、400m個人メドレー15位、400m自由形17位、1500m自由形18位と目立った成績は残さなかった。しかし、彼の技術、潜在能力がプールサイドにいた専門家(コーチ)の目にとまり、2002年の8月に南カリフォルニア大学に受け入れられた。)



“While in Tunis, the bell of my house’s door rang one day and when we opened it there was a family that had come from a remote village of the country just to meet and touch me. I was speechless! This kind of experience makes you even more humble.”

(“チュニジアにいたある日、家の呼び鈴が鳴り、ドアを開けると私に会うために遠方より訪ねた家族がいた。(驚きと嬉しさで)うまく会話が出来なかった。こんな経験は誰をも謙虚にさせる”)


His progress is immediate: in July 2003, he finally makes his appearance at the highest level. At the FINA World Championships in Barcelona (ESP) he gets the bronze in the 400m IM behind a ‘certain’(first) and the European dominator of the event, Hungarian Laszlo Cseh. It was Tunisia’s first swimming medal in a World Championships. In Abuja (NGR), three months later, he shines again at the All African Games (six titles). The ‘Mellouli legend’ had started.

(すぐに成果が表れた。2003年7月、彼はついに一流へと登りつめた。バルセロナ世界選手権の400m個人メドレーで優勝確実のMichael Phelps選手(1位)、欧州でこの種目の支配者Hungarian Laszlo Cseh選手に続き銅メダルを獲得。これは、チュニジア史上初の水泳世界選手権でのメダルであった。3ヶ月後にナイジェリア・アブジャで行われたアフリカ選手権でも6冠と再び輝いた。“Mellouli伝説”は始まった。)



Athens 2004 was still early for the first Olympic swimming medal for Tunisia, but ‘Ous’ swims the final of the 400m IM and finishes fifth. In the longer event of the programme, the 1500m free, he concludes in 14th. Less than two months later, at the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in Indianapolis (USA) he finally gets the first world title for his country in this discipline, by winning his pet event, the 400m IM in 4:07.02. At the Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers’ NBA team and where a provisional pool had been installed for the championships, the organisers had put in place a children’s choir to sing live all the anthems of the victorious athletes: no one had predicted Mellouli’s win, so he was the only gold medal winner with the national anthem performed the ‘traditional’ way.

(2004年のアテネ五輪でのメダル獲得は、チュニジアには少し早かった。しかし、“Ous”選手は400m個人メドレーで決勝に進み、5位に入賞した。長距離種目の1500m自由形では14位。2ヶ月弱後のインディアナポリス世界短水路選手権では、得意種目の400m個人メドレーで4分07秒02の記録で初の世界タイトルを獲得した。NBAチーム、インディアナぺーサーズのホーム、Conseco Fieldhouseの世界選手権用の仮設プールで、組織委員会が(慌てて)準備した勝者に贈る国歌斉唱が子供の生演奏が行われた。誰も彼の勝利を予測しておらず、彼は唯一生演奏の国歌斉唱を行った勝者となった。)


(続きは英文でお楽しみ下さい。)


At the 2005 FINA Worlds in Montreal (CAN), he conquers two bronze in the 400m free and 400m IM. In 2006 he does not travel to Shanghai (CHN) for the 25m-Worlds, and in 2007 in Melbourne (AUS) he finally gets a world title in a 50m-pool: victory in the 800m free in 7:46.95, silver in the 400m free and fourth in the 400m IM. Mellouli is on top of the world, but the ‘sky falls on his head’ a couple of weeks later when it is reported that he failed a doping test in November 2006. On the eve of an important examination at the university, Mellouli takes a pill to stay awake, but a test some days later reveals the presence of the banned substance amphetamine in his body. After a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decision in September 2007, the Tunisian has to serve an 18-month suspension, starting from November 2006. The consequence is obvious: he loses his 2007 world medals, but (as a consolation) he can still compete at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing (CHN).



Training away from general attention and focused on getting faster and, most of all, recovering his credibility, ‘Ous’ touches Chinese soil with an incredible amount of pressure on his shoulders. His first final, on August 10, 2008 ‘only’ gives him fifth place in the 400m free, but he saves the best for the last swimming day of the Games; the 1500m free on August 17: in the heats, two days before, he is only sixth, while Grant Hackett (AUS) qualifies first with an Olympic record of 14:38.92. The Australian dives into the final in the best lane (four) and naturally expects to get his third consecutive Olympic title in this event (it would be a first), but Mellouli dominates the race, touching first in 14:40.84. Despite a strong finish, Hackett is second in 14:41.53, leaving the bronze to Canadian Ryan Cochrane (14:42.69). Mellouli’s dream had finally become a reality, and with him a nation (re)discovered the sport of swimming.



Three months later, during the FINA/ARENA Swimming World Cup – where he got an unprecedented haul of 28 wins over the seven legs of the competition -, ‘Ous’ talks to our magazine about his amazing trajectory. After all his success, he remains the same kind and humble man of his early years and recalls with emotion all these great memories.



“I know that I entered forever the history of Tunisian sport. I am aware that future generations will still remember my feats.”



“At the end of my 1500m-effort in Beijing, I was extremely tired, but I saw the scoreboard and understood that I was Olympic champion. I first thought about my family and all those who supported me, but then, as I imagine happens with all Olympic champions, I focused in myself and thought: ‘Oussama, you’ve made it!” says Mellouli mixing his native French with his also perfect English. “Then, I realised that I had beaten one of my idols, Grant Hackett, a living legend for Australia. I started admiring Vladimir Salnikov [from Russia, first man under 15 minutes in the 1500m free], and then Kieren Perkins, from Australia. When he lost to Hackett in Sydney 2000, I focused on Grant. And now, in Beijing, it was my turn to beat him…” he adds.



But this consecration followed a period of doubts and physical difficulties. “With six months to go for the Games, I had a severe injury in my back, and I had to adapt my training to that. Then, I go to Beijing after two-weeks of difficult preparation in Japan, and I finish fifth in the 400m free. I was disappointed and said to myself: ‘The Games are maybe not suited for you…’ In Athens 2004 I had also been fifth, so my last chance was the 1500m. Arriving to that race, my main priority was not to think about all that could disturb me: my injuries, my doping suspension, my rivalry with Grant. At the end of the day, I stayed focused only on the race and it paid off”.



Mellouli’s smiling face gets sad when we force him to recall the painful experience of his suspension: “While away from the competition, I was thinking of it every single day when I woke up at five in the morning to go training. And then, the Games were my chance to made a successful comeback, to get my redemption,” he says. “It would have been shocking to compare my case to ‘heavy’ cases of doping, like the use of steroids. Fortunately, the CAS decision was wise and based on a ‘negligent act’ and not on a ‘deliberate use of doping’. For me, it was a severe learning experience; I lost my 2007 medals and I’ve changed a lot. Today, I would have certainly done things differently,” he confesses. “Moreover, it weakened my Olympic preparation as I couldn’t face my opponents in the frame of a competition. After the Olympic title, I will ‘take back’ in 2009 my world medals at the Championships in Rome.”



National hero
Meanwhile, he remains training in the USA but must deal with the success and the enormous expectations he created in Tunisia. “Despite being a country that loves sport, our only Olympic champion dated back from 1968. There was a whole generation of people that never saw a Tunisian Olympic champion actually winning a gold medal. I was lucky enough to be that person, and I can assure that many people stayed awake during the night to watch live on the TV my race in Beijing. After that, everything that followed was incredible!”



“While away from the competition, I was thinking of it every single day when I woke up at five in the morning to go training. And then, the Games were my chance to made a successful comeback, to get my redemption”



With his gold Olympic medal around the neck, Mellouli stayed one week more in Beijing, but upon his arrival in Tunis (the capital of his country) the crowd was waiting for him at the airport. He was then paraded in the city and was received at the highest level by the President of Tunisia. “Only then, I truly understood what I had done and what was the meaning of that gold medal for my country,” admits Mellouli. He then tells our magazine a touching human story: “While in Tunis, the bell of my house’s door rang one day and when we opened it there was a family that had come from a remote village of the country just to meet and touch me. I was speechless! This kind of experience makes you even more humble.”



In a country where sportive success at the highest level is still unusual, Mellouli’s achievement will pave the way to new developments in the areas of marketing and sponsoring of top-athletes. “I obviously received a reward from the Tunisian state, but on a private level, my country is still not used to dealing with champions. This will change and I am sure that some top-companies will perhaps like to associate their image to my success,” he considers. “I know that I entered forever in the history of Tunisian sport. I am aware that future generations will still remember my feats”. Besides the economical impact, Mellouli wants to keep the same balance between the sport and his studies (Sports Management and Administration). “If possible, I want to continue as I have in the last years: studying and training”.



At the recent (December 2008) African Swimming Championships in Johannesburg, Mellouli was again the swimmer in evidence, by winning eight gold medals and leading Tunisia to first place of the swimming medal’s table. If in the 50m-pool his plans are clear – shine at the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome (ITA) and revalidate his Olympic title in London 2012 (“it’s something in the back of my mind, but I need to remain focused in the next years of my preparation and hope that injuries won’t affect me”) - Mellouli also excels in short course events.



For the second time participating in the FINA/ARENA Swimming World Cup (he swam at the Paris leg of the 2002 edition), the Tunisian star decided to fly around the world to compete in the seven meets of the 2008 edition in October/November. At the end of the competition, the outcome is brilliant: a record of 28 victories (corresponding to an overall prize money of US$ 48,000) and the sixth place of the overall ranking. “I always wanted to participate in this competition, which I find an excellent challenge for athletes like me. Swimming in the university championship in the USA, we must be very competitive, and the World Cup certainly has that characteristic. Moreover, the prize money put in place by organisers and by FINA is a good motivation for the participants. Finally, it enables us to travel to many different countries in a reasonable period of time. So, there are a handful of good reasons to compete in the World Cup. The only minor disadvantage for a swimmer like me is that the ranking tends to privilege the sprint competitors.” About his 28 triumphs (and a total of 35 medals), he concludes with a smile: “They compensate all the ones I missed during my 18-month suspension!”


FINAホームページより引用 原文優位



注) Mark Schubertコーチ

テキサス大学コーチ、南カリフォルニア大学ヘッドコーチを経て、現在USA Swimmingヘッドコーチ。7大会連続の五輪ヘッドコーチ(1980年~2004年)。また、Mission Viejo Nadadores設立コーチの1人。(Wikipediaより引用)




 伝説との遭遇。残り2ヶ月良い所を学んでおこう。



See you NEXT !

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