Ahmed Sallam’s bio, as provided by Marist Athletics, does not entirely do justice to everything it took for Ahmed to arrive on campus this Fall. It reads:
“Sallam is a member of the Junior Egyptian National Team as well as the Al Ahly Sporting Club. He is also a member of the Egyptian National Volleyball team, where he plays outside hitter as well as a right-side hitter. Regionally, he placed first in the 50-meter backstroke, butterfly, and freestyle, as well as the 100-meter freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly. Nationally, he placed first in the 50-meter backstroke and managed to place second in six other competitions.”
So we’re just going to skip right over the “member of the Egyptian National Volleyball Team” bit, then?
For context, his bio appears under his picture on the men’s swimming and diving roster. That’s where the swimming accolades come from. The bio does shed a bit of light on the athlete Sallam is, though. Any athlete that competes at the national level would make noise at the college level. In the United States, someone doing that in two sports is unheard of. For Sallam, it’s just commonplace.
He has since given up volleyball since his arrival at Marist, as there is no Division I team here. But his focus on swimming is completely unchanged. Of course, there are some subtle changes; instead of rising for his 5 a.m. practice in Egypt, he settles for the afternoon practices set by coach Larry VanWagner. Sallam is quickly learning how to assimilate.
VanWagner described how quickly Sallam got up to speed at Marist after missing the first week of classes and practices because of a delay in his student visa. He stated that Sallam was definitely “behind the eight ball, but has done exceptionally well in his academics, assimilation, and athletics.” And when asked if there was more room to grow because of this delay, VanWagner simply said, “Absolutely.”
Sallam has backed up those claims in the pool. In his debut against Canisius, he won the 50 and 100-yard free races while leading the team to a 1-0 start. To follow up on his dominating first act, not only did he win those same races again against Fordham, but he was also apart of the 400-yard medley relay that took first place as well. Against the defending MAAC champions Rider, he was finally bested. Marist hasn’t beaten Rider in over 10 years, but there is certainly a growing buzz around the future of this group with Sallam as the centerpiece.
Sallam is ready for that moment to come but in the meantime, he just wants to continue to get accustomed to life in the United States. He does have more free time compared to his days in Egypt that were full of traveling to his sporting club and university, which was a lot further than his five-minute walk to the McCann Center. He does miss playing volleyball, saying, “when you get used to something like this and just out of nowhere you lose one of them, it’s like something is missing.” He tries to fill that void by attending the Marist women’s volleyball matches when he can to root on the team. Volleyball meant a lot to him and the prospect of playing at Marist has not been entirely ruled out by VanWagner. After all, Sallam was named the second-best attacker in the African Volleyball Championship.
So what comes next Sallam? Besides a prospering career in the pool at Marist, he will attempt to qualify for the Egyptian Olympic swimming team this spring. But for the time being, he is thankful to get in the pool every day and do what he loves, grateful for all the opportunities he’s been provided.
Edited by Will Bjarnar & Amelia Nick