My story- Sara Gadalla at TEDxKhartoum


Translator: Iman Saeed
Reviewer: Abdulatif Mahgoub In the name of Allah, most merciful,
most gracious. Alsalam Alikum
(Peace be upon you) Today, I’ll talk about a tiny part of my life. I was born in — No, I won’t say, April 23rd. (Laughter)
(Applause) And when I turned two years old, I was diagnosed with polio. My parents, like all Sudanese parents
and all parents all over the world felt worried and anxious,
they visited many doctors and they all had the same
thing to say: it was incurable. My parents weren’t convinced,
so they flew me to Egypt. And there, the doctor said the same thing, except he added that swimming may prove helpful. And so as soon as we returned,
my father took me and my siblings to learn swimming together,
and also for moral support. I firmly believe that my father had the
biggest role in me being Sara Gadalla. (Applause) And as soon as we returned, he told me: “You are a champion, don’t be afraid” “It’s ok, you can’t walk but you can swim” “and you are going to be famous.” I started dreaming big, and we dreamt
together until we became one. And to this day our names are
pronounced as one, Sara Gadalla. I learned how to swim
and I began to swim competitively, I started with the junior league,
and I won that. Then I went on to represent Sudan in Nairobi and China, I participated in the national championship. I remember when I was young,
I’d get very sad and upset because I couldn’t run like the other kids, girls my age would wear high heels, whereas I could only wear flats. So my dad would take me shopping
for beautiful and colorful shoes that would be custom made specially for me and he would say: “All that
matters is that you be happy.” (Applause) He would also say: “You should always
walk tall with your head held high.” “You are an important person,
and you are a champion.” “You should have a big dream” “because big dreams and the
efforts you make towards them” “is what truly matters in life.” “It doesn’t matter how a person looks or
what they do, what matters is what they contribute.” So I started competing, and
one of the races I remember is the Jabal Awliya – Khartoum race, and it was the longest at 50 kilometers. On the race day, there were seven
swimmers and I was the only female. And as is the weather in Sudan,
a strong wind blew and flipped over all the boats that
were supposed to accompany the race. I recall that the president of the
federation approached me and suggested that I don’t participate
in this race because it was too dangerous. so I asked him: “Will anyone else participate?” He said: ” The boys are going in.”
I said; “Then so am I.” (Applause) I remember my day said:
“Just say a prayer and jump in.” So I said a prayer and I jumped in the water,
then I asked myself: why did I do it? (Laughter) I heard a lot of cheering
the entire way to Khartoum. And from here on, people came to
know about a champion called Sara. And the dream grew bigger,
just like my dad told me. I told him I wanted to compete in the
Capri-Naples marathon swim in Italy. He said he didn’t mind and
asked if I could handle it. I said: sure! And off we went. Capri is basically a small island,
frequented by the rich and wealthy, and the swimmers in the marathon season. As soon as we departed the ship, we were greeted with
stares of bewilderment. Because we definitely don’t look rich, But we also cannot be swimmers! So they asked us:
“what brought you here?” We said we were here for the race. So they asked: “Well, where is the swimmer?” I said I am the one, they laughed
it off assuming it was a joke. We asserted that we were in fact there for the race. So they took our info, and told us that there has to be a test
prior to the actual race. At the test, I remember that the water
seemed so blue and beautiful, yet it was my first time
swimming in salt water, and so I came out within seconds. I told them that I won’t
be able to participate. especially since I was
swimming without goggles. Amongst the participating teams
were Egyptian And Saudi trainers, They were able to spare me a pair of
goggles, and included us in their teams. Our team was composed of
my dad and I, that’s it. All the other teams had doctors,
massage therapists, etc. Except ours, him holding his camera and me walking by his side
not knowing what to do. (Applause) And when the race began, the water
was so cold and the tide was high, but despite all this I persevered
and continued swimming. Halfway through the race, I got
tired, I said I can’t go on. My dad told me: “Sara, the
whole Sudan is waiting for you” “Do you want to go back
and say that you quit?” (Applause) I said: No,I’ll carry on. And sure I did, up until around five
kilometers from the finishing line, My dad said: “lift up your
head above the water” “so you can see and hear
what the crowds are saying.” I heard loud noises despite the distance, they were cheering: “Viva Sara! Viva Sara!” (Applause) Hearin that gave me an extra
push and added momentum, so I swam as fast as I could
until I reached the finishing line. And I was surprised to hear my name being broadcasted as
I crossed the finishing line: “Sara Gadalla from Sudan, she is
handicapped, participating for the first time” “as the youngest swimmer in the race,
and finished in second place.” (Applause) That was the world championship. I remember as I crossed the finishing line hearing the national anthem
as the Sudanese flag is raised, and I heard the crowds cheering
me on, I was surprised that they accepted me now having
laughed at me in the beginning. And on the next day, I was walking
down the street, feeling ecstatic. Initially they took pity on
me and said poor girl, but the next day, I was walking and
limping and they were applauding me. I felt extremely proud and very happy
having represented my country Sudan. (Applause) Thank you very much. (Applause)

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