By Asmait Futsumbrhan
Growing up around Mombasa beaches, Daniel Christian became a swimmer at a young age. Joining the swimming clubs of Kenya led to competing at the international level of age groups in Denmark. The 21 year old Danish-Eritrean swimmer has won most of the titles of the Danish championships as an age group contestant. Daniel continued to do well after he joined the junior and senior levels as well although he didn’t win a title.
Now that he came back to Eritrea, where he was born, Daniel brought swimming tools and made time to meet with the Swimming Federation of Eritrea. He also arranged to meet up with Mereb-Setit Swimming Club and shared his knowledge with the Eritrean swimmers. He also had the pleasure of swimming at the Operation Fenkil celebrations with his fellow Eritreans.
-Thank you for making time to be with us today; would you please introduce yourself to our readers?
I was born in 1998, in Eritrea. However, due to the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, my family had to move to different African countries -- Gambia, Tanzania and Kenya. When I was just 4 years old, I started swimming along with my two sisters in Mombasa since it was a popular sport there. I joined the Bandari Swimming Club before I moved to Nairobi. My interest in swimming began to grow bigger as I went to the Nairobi International School where swimming was a much bigger sport. After moving to Denmark, learning another language was challenging, but I had swimming to divert my mind.
-When did you officially start to take part in competitions?
Every time we moved places, I was presented with a much greater opportunity to be dragged in to swimming much deeper. In Denmark, I started to participate in various national age group swimming competitions, where I became the champion in most of them till I joined the junior team. Nonetheless, I had the chance to take part in a Nordic championship contest and won the title. It was a Scandinavian age group swimming competition which was encouraging. Winning all those age group competitions was rewarding for the hard training I was doing. It meant a lot and inspired me to have a greater vision. I trained seven to eight times a week which sometimes can be challenging. I was in to different kinds of sport such as karate and running but swimming was the only thing that inspired me. I felt like my physique was meant for swimming. I felt like a talented swimmer and that is why I worked hard on it.
-How were the competitions at the junior and senior levels like?
It got tougher, certainly. But I managed to be on top five and top three. I can still compete internationally, but I would need to train much harder. I just finished college which made it a bit challenging to focus on swimming. No matter what level you are at, swimming requires constant training.
-What type of swimming do you compete in?
There are different disciplines in swimming – butter-fly, back-stroke, breast-stroke and front crawl, and there is another one called IM where you swim all four types back to back. That is what I compete in, but I can also compete in the other types. This means I have to train in each and every discipline equally. It can be challenging and I can’t have the same result as those who train specifically at the field, but I can do well.
-You came to Eritrea and made contact with the swimmer’ federation; what was your experience like?
I was born in Eritrea, and I have family here. This isn’t my first time in Eritrea. I came here to see my grandparents and I also wanted to see how the country was doing. I am glad that the sanction over Eritrea was finally lifted and I can see that there is a brighter future for the country. I brought few swimming materials that the swimmers could use. I also told the federation that I am open to share my knowledge and experience as an international level swimmer. I had the chance to meet with the Mereb- Setit swimmers and trained them for five days in Massawa. The swimmers have a potential and great endurance. I saw that the skills of the swimmers can be elevated if they had the professional training and dietary techniques. So, the things I know about techniques and training generally are something I can give to the Eritrean swimmers.
Eritrea is famous for its long distance runners and cyclists who compete internationally. We can also be known for swimming if we work hard on it and make the sport popular In Eritrea. I came here three weeks after the sanctions were lifted and it just felt like the future was brighter. Although the swimming federation is brand new, we can achieve great results if we open up open-water swimming places and organize races. Eritrea has long coastal lines which are motivating enough to have great swimmers of its own.
You were amongst the swimmers at the Operation Fenkil celebration; how was it?
I was just there to teach the swimmers how to elevate themselves as swimmers. It was nice to be part of the national holiday celebration, which means a lot to Eritreans. It was also inspiring to see the kids being inspired by the swimmers. It felt good.
-Before we say our goodbyes….?
I plan to come back with more swimming materials of appropriate sizes because the swimming suits I got for the female swimmers this time were much bigger on them. I also felt like I didn’t get enough. Again, I want to take two swimmers to my club in Denmark for two weeks to see and experience more about the professional techniques of swimming. I believe that they can come back and help the other swimmers with their knowledge and experience. They can learn a lot. The things I can teach them just in days are very limited. Also, I would like to open a 50 meter pool anywhere in Eritrea. I think having a professional pool can help in increasing the number of swimmers. And as for myself, in April I am going to South Africa and compete in the South African Championship.