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NYUAD community members gather on the pool deck to wish Nada Al Bedwawi good luck in Rio. Michelle Loibner / NYUAD

NYUAD's Olympic Pride

NYU Abu Dhabi science student Nada Al Bedwawi is making a splash in the history books as the UAE's first female swimmer to compete at an Olympic Games.

Al Bedwawi — who will also carry the country's flag at the opening ceremony — was selected as a wildcard entry for the 50 meter freestyle event in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. It was an unexpected opportunity, she said, because her original plan was to compete at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

"It's an honor for me to be the first Emirati girl to represent the UAE in the swimming event and I hope more will follow," said the 18-year-old who grew up in Dubai and is studying biology and math at NYUAD.

We caught up with Al Bedwawi to ask about her goals at Rio 2016 and to find out what it's like to prepare for exams and the world's biggest athletic competition at the same time.

How do you juggle school and training for the Olympics?
Time management is the key to success, in my opinion. I set a detailed schedule to make time for everything from swimming to studying to relaxing and taking time off from my daily activities.

What's a typical day like for you?
I wake up around 7am to go running for 30 minutes. Then I head for breakfast and attend my first class. Between classes I eat lunch and study a little then go to swimming practice for 2-3 hours. Finally, I head to my room and relax before I start doing my homework and study for any tests I might have.

It's an honor for me to be the first Emirati girl to represent the UAE at the swimming Olympics and I hope more will follow. 

Nada Al Bedwawi

What helps you relieve the stress of being a student and Olympic athlete?
Hanging out with friends and watching TV shows.

How does being a competitive athlete help you succeed in the classroom?
It helps a lot with time management. I set a time for everything.

What are your goals at Rio 2016?
To represent my country in the best way possible and hopefully open doors for young Emirati female athletes who are really passionate about sports whether it be swimming, archery, track and field or whatever. It's an honor for me to be the first Emirati girl to represent the UAE at the swimming Olympics and I hope more will follow. I am hoping to represent the UAE again in four years at the Tokyo Olympics.