Anum Bandey, flying the flag for Pakistani swimming

At London 2012, Pakistani swimmer Anum Bandey achieved her ambitious goal of trimming a whole three seconds off her country’s 400m medley record. In the latest instalment of our “Words of Olympians” series, she recalls her Olympic experience.

In taking to the starting block for the semi-final of the women’s individual 400m medley at London 2012, Anum Bandey became only the third female Pakistani swimmer in history to compete in the Olympics, following in the footsteps of Rubab Raza at Athens 2004 and Kiran Khan at Beijing 2008.

Pakistan’s lone female swimmer at London 2012, the 15 year-old felt very much at home. Although opting to represent Pakistan, the country of her parents’ birth, she herself was born and brought up in the English capital, and continues to live and train there.

She owed her Olympic place to the wild card invitation she received from the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) following her performance at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, where she broke the Pakistani women’s individual 400m medley record for the first time.

“I was really nervous at the start because I knew that all my family back home was watching and loads of my friends and my coach were in the audience,” she says, reflecting on her race in London. “But I knew that I’d done the training so I was confident that I would do well. I think at the end of my race, when it got to the freestyle, I was really tired, but I knew I had the endurance to push myself.”

Though she was unable to make it through to the final, Bandey’s time of 5:34.64 earned her a place in her country’s sporting annals, which she was thrilled about. “My main aim was to break the Pakistani national record, which I did by three seconds. When I looked at my time I was really happy. You can’t really explain how you feel because it’s just amazing.”

The teenager also enjoyed plenty of unforgettable moments away from the pool at London 2012. “To share time and experiences with people from all over the world, it’s an amazing thing, because loads of your role models are here and you can look at them and you can see how they train, what they eat, so you improve yourself as well as looking at them. It’s amazing.”