“A lot of people think I’m not Kuwaiti,” Faye laughed, “but I am! Born and raised baby!” To Kuwaiti Olympic swimmer and recent Williams College alumnus Faye Sultan, this is the most common, and amusing, misconception that she faces.
Born into an athletic family, it wasn’t long until Faye developed a passion for sports. Growing up watching her brother dedicate himself to tennis, Faye grew inspired to pursue her own athletic path. Still, for Faye, her most notable family member is her mother. Faye began her swim career at the Yarmouk Club with help, support and guidance from her mother. “There was no girls swimming team for me to join – so I’d say my mother played a large role in encouraging me,” Faye elaborated. From superbly humble beginnings to competing at the Olympics, she worked twice as hard to get this far.
An athlete since her childhood, Faye found herself practicing several sports until she settled on ballet and swimming. It didn’t take long for her love for swimming to take over – “I decided I needed to choose one, and I chose swimming,” Faye explained, “there’s more room for me to develop there – and my family hated sitting through my dance recitals.” Having taken part in swim meets since she was merely eight years old, today Faye has 13 years of competitive swimming and two Olympic Games under her belt. Being Kuwait’s first female Olympic swimmer – and the first in her set at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games – Faye finds herself jealous of the other countries’ relays. “I wish there were more of us!” Faye exclaims, “It would be amazing to be part of a Kuwaiti relay someday.”
With all the controversy surrounding the Olympic Games, we had to get her thoughts on competing independently: “I believe the moment I really felt the impact was when Fehaid AlDehani won the gold medal, they weren’t allowed to raise Kuwait’s flag! That moment brought me to tears. There is so much pride in representing your country, and that was taken away from us.” Nonetheless, Faye remains hopeful for the future and isn’t going to be giving up any time soon!
Long since her days at the Yarmouk Club pool, Faye officially started training rigorously with Elite Swim Team Kuwait. “We had practice before school and then again after school,” Faye smiled. Honing her skills further, Faye went on to compete in different countries until she graduated school and went on to university. But it wasn’t an easy feat: “A lot of the challenges we faced in Kuwait came from gaining access to pools. Sometimes we weren’t allowed to swim at certain pools and other times people would forget to let us in! Then there were times where the pools had to be shut down for hygienic purposes.” Through it all, Faye persevered and worked toward her goal – to compete professionally. And in the summer of 2012, Faye found herself in London preparing to compete as the first female Kuwaiti Olympic swimmer. After making her country, family and self proud, Faye joined her college swimteam and started competing for them where she currently continues her training.
Being a fulltime student and an Olympic athlete comes with its own set of caveats. Attempting to balance athletics and academics can be tricky due to the rigorous and sporadic training hours, plus attending classes and studying for exams. “All athletes face [this] challenge,” Faye continued, “especially at a collegiate level. There are a lot of challenges in every sport, but that’s what makes it worthwhile!” With this balance in mind, one of Faye’s role models is 19 year-old five-time Olympic gold medalis, competitive swimmer Katie Ledecky. Faye also looks up to Michael Phelps and all “the Arab swimmers out there!” And as far as her plans for the future go: “I want to play a more active role in women’s sports in the region. There is so much talent here.”
When Faye isn’t swimming, she seeks solace in one of her many hobbies. “I enjoy dancing, cycling or lifting [weights],” Faye started. “But outside athletics, I love food! I enjoy baking and eating,” she laughed, “I [also] like to read, tan and then eat some more.” As our time came to an end, Faye had a message she wanted to pass on to everyone out there wishing to pursue a dream: “Don’t let anyone dictate what you’re capable of.” And as the age-old adage states, the sky’s the limit!
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL QUESTIONNAIRE
What do you most value in your friends?
Humor, loyalty, and always having a phone charger handy.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A post workout eating session.
What is your greatest fear?
Being attacked by birds.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
It’s a trait I both admire and deplore in myself: stubbornness.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Which living person do you most admire?
Besides the amazing swimmers mentioned above, I deeply admire Michelle Obama, Serena Williams and Malala Yousafzai.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Yella, we’re going to be late.
What is it that you most dislike?
People that think they are better than others.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I wouldn’t mind having an amazing singing voice.
If you could have any job, what would it be?
A food critic without the weight gain.
What would you consider your greatest achievement?
Getting through four years of college while also swimming. #survivor
What is your most treasured possession?
What is your most marked characteristic?
My height and my determination.
Where would you most like to live?
Sydney, Australia. I lived there for six months, and I would not mind going back.
What are your favorite words to live by?
Be the change you wish to see in the world. It starts with you.