2014 AAU Joel Ferrell Award – Swimming
Georges Ghafari is the male recipient of the 2014 AAU Joel Ferrell Award in the Swimming portion of the 2014 AAU Junior Olympic Games! Ghafari, 10, began swimming at the age of five after seeing his mother participate in swimming events at the professional level. His family, of Lebanese nationality, currently resides in Saudi Arabia, where law restrictions greatly affect Georges ability to participate in some swimming competitions.
Despite this, in his short swimming career, he has competed in several regional competitions, like the Hamilton Aquatics in Dubai; the H2O swimming meet in Qatar, Oman Open Swimming Competition, the Lebanese National Championship. Ghafari already possesses more than 200 gold medals and 25 trophies and carries fourteen records, four of which are national!
Because of his success, this year he set his sights on traveling to the United States to compete in the 2014 AAU Junior Olympic Games. Ghafari’s team, the Arabian Falcons used to send a batch of swimmers to the United States to participate in the AAU Junior Olympic Games but Georges never had the opportunity to come until now. After a sixteen hour flight to the United States, Ghafari was ready to compete in the 2014 AAU Junior Olympic Games.
Not only did he compete, he conquered. After the swimming competition was over, Georges walked away with a total of five gold, three silver and one bronze medal with a total of 167 points, earning him first place honors in the 10 and under age group. He was also the proud owner of the 2014 AAU Joel Ferrell Award, which recognizes outstanding accomplishments and sportsmanship of an athlete representing each official sport at the AAU Junior Olympic Games.
Ghafari said he would like to compete in this event again and has a long term goal of becoming an Olympic swimmer competing at an international level.
Fourteen year old Halee Riley is the female recipient of the 2014 AAU Joel Ferrell Award for Swimming in the AAU Junior Olympic Games! She also began swimming at the age of five, but not because she saw her family or friends competing, but rather characters in the cartoon show “Arthur”. She told her parents she wanted to “swim race” and they signed her up at the YMCA. A few years later, she joined a local competitive club team and has been swimming club ever since.
Riley competed in the last two AAU Junior Olympic Games, but she almost missed out on attending the one in Detroit in 2013. She found out about the meet at 7pm on the day the entries were due in 2013. In a few hours, she decided to make the trip to Michigan with another swimmer from her team. By the time they had gathered all of their information, they almost missed the deadline, but fortunately, they did! She said it was a great experience for the both of them and it made them want to return this year.
It’s a good thing she came back, because she dominated this competition this year! She participated on the relay team for both the 200 and 400 meter relays, winning all four and placed first in the 200 meter breaststroke. She also claimed one of the top eight spots in five other individual events along with taking home the 2014 AAU Joel Ferrell Award.
Halee said “seeing all of the hard work I put in paying off is important” and she is already planning her trip to the AAU Junior Olympic Games with her family for next year in Virginia. Her long term goals include swimming at the collegiate level and swimming Masters beyond that.
Good luck to both of the 2014 AAU Joel Ferrell Award winners and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store for you both!