Going for Gold: Dreams come true as two GEMS students qualify for Paris 2024 Olympic Games

Christina Rach_GEMS WIS_2

Olympic dreams have come true for two students from GEMS Education’s Wellington cluster of schools. Karin Belbeisi, aged 15, attends GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail (WEK), while Christina Rach, aged 16, is a pupil of GEMS Wellington International School (WIS). Both will have the pride and honour of competing for their nations at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games over the summer.

The teenage swimmers both train with Hamilton Aquatics and, after years of dedication and months of intense international competitions, will now fulfil their lifelong ambitions of competing alongside the world’s best athletes at this year’s Olympics.

Karin Belbeisi, a member of the Elite Swimming Programme at WEK, home to the GEMS Centre of Excellence for Swimming, will represent her home country Jordan in the 400-metre freestyle event. Sprint swimmer Christina Rach, a Sports Scholar at WIS, will swim in the 50-metre freestyle event for Eritrea.

Sharing her pride and pleasure of representing her country at the Olympic Games, Christina Rach said: “It’s been a long journey of around nine years of hard work in the pool with Hamilton Aquatics, developing both physical and mental attributes needed to compete at this high level

“To reach the highest stage this sport offers is the ultimate reward of the work I’ve put in, and to do it with other swimmers who I have trained with in the past is an extra bonus. I will be swimming 50m freestyle and I’m extremely excited to represent my country – and do myself, my coach, my parents, and teammates proud.”

Expressing her delight at being selected for the Olympics, Karin Belbeisi said: “I am so excited to represent Jordan at the Paris Olympics. It is a dream come true!”

Karin’s Olympic Journey

Karin first started swimming at the age of four in an intensive summer course with Hamilton Aquatics. With her obvious talent and dedication, she was just 13 years old when she first represented Jordan in the 2022 Arab Championships in Algeria.

Karin’s Olympic journey has seen her compete at the 2024 Arab Championships in Qatar, where she won three medals, before competing at the 2024 World Long Course Championships in Doha, Qatar. She also competed in the Asian Age Group Championships in February 2024, securing multiple top 10 finishes.

Following her participation in the World Aquatics Championships in Doha, Karin was long listed by Jordan as a potential selection for the Olympic team. To earn her place in the team, Karin travelled to Singapore to compete in the 19th Singapore Nationals, where she recorded a series of lifetime bests in the 400m individual medley, 400m freestyle and 800m freestyle, securing her selection for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Alex Gray, Karin’s coach at Hamilton Aquatics, said: “This is a fantastic achievement for Karin. She has worked incredibly hard to earn this selection.”

Christina’s Olympic Journey

Christina started swimming at the age of six, and by the time she turned 10, she was part of the Hamilton Aquatics Squads Programme. She is currently training in the Youth 2 squad and has been training with coach Katie Baxa since 2021.

Christina’s road to Paris 2024 has seen her compete in several international meets. In November 2023, she competed in the African Aquatics Zone 3 Championships, where she won two gold medals in the 50m backstroke and 100m freestyle, as well as a silver medal in the 50m freestyle.

In February 2024, she travelled to Doha to compete in the World Aquatics Championships. It was there that she swam a personal best in the 50m freestyle and secured her qualification for the Paris Games.

Katie Baxa, Christina’s coach at Hamilton Aquatics, said: “It’s been a privilege to be Christina’s coach over the last three years, and this Olympic selection makes it that much sweeter. I am inspired by Christina’s relentless determination to better herself and chase the opportunities in front of her. She embodies the meaning of an elite athlete in how she carries herself at every training session and competition.

“I know it means so much to her to be able to represent Eritrea. I know she hopes to promote growth in the sport in her country and inspire the next generation of swimmers to start their own journey. We would not have been able to do this without the support of the entire Hamilton Aquatics club and their interest in Christina’s journey

“Finally, thank you, Christina, for being the athlete you are, for never backing down from a challenge – this is your achievement.”

GEMS Swimming Centre of Excellence

GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail is the GEMS Swimming Centre of Excellence, and Karin is the first student from the centre to compete in the Olympic Games. The Academy, in partnership with Hamilton Aquatics, provides students an outstanding environment to achieve excellence in education alongside its Elite Swimming Programme

Student athletes benefit from a modified timetable to enable them to meet both the demands and requirements of their training schedules and their academic commitments.

Thanks to the Centre of Excellence, Karin has the flexibility to train during the school day or after school. Karin typically trains eight times a week, completing both pool and land-based sessions with a mix of morning sessions before school and evening training. A typical day for Karin begins at 4am when she wakes up and has a light breakfast. At 4.45am she is at the pool, ready for a land-based mobility and activation session, and from 5.10-6.50am, she’s training in the pool. By 7.40am, she’s at school ready for the day along with her classmates.

Karin has a personalised timetable, allowing her time to study, complete homework, and manage her wellbeing. The flexibility and support provided by the Centre of Excellence and Elite Swimming Programme are invaluable, especially during exam periods. The unique programme and facilities on offer enable elite student athletes like Karin to succeed in the pool and in the classroom.

Joanne Hearty, GEMS Wellington Director for Sports and Physical Education, said: “The GEMS Wellington schools are absolutely thrilled with the news that two of our exceptional students have qualified for the Olympic Games. This is an opportunity of a lifetime and their dedication and hard work have truly paid off. Our schools, and indeed the entire GEMS network, will be cheering for them all the way. We couldn’t be any prouder.”