Youssef Hammoud just wanted someone to swim with. The young Egyptian had been around pools for most of his life and was immersed in swimming lessons. Yet he lacked the confidence to dive into his uncle’s pool by himself. So, Hammoud’s uncle decided to “help” by throwing 5-year-old Youssef into the water with instructions to “figure it out.”
Hammoud, BS CS ’16, easily could have soured on swimming afterward. Instead, he became a record-breaking competitive swimmer and focused student more than 5,000 miles away from home at Georgia Tech. Diving in and “figuring it out” has become a way of life he now follows with confidence.
“Youssef is aptly described by the old adage, ‘never let ‘em see you sweat,’” says Christen Steele, his academic advisor. “He's always even-keeled and has the mental toughness that's necessary to survive academically at Tech and also be a 10-time GT record holder.”
His gills didn’t sprout overnight, though. Plenty of individualized training in Egyptian swimming schools led him to a spot on the country’s National Junior Team. He dominated the 2009 Junior Arab Championships, winning a gold, silver, and two bronze medals against competitors from across the Arab world. Ending competitions on the medal stand was fast becoming familiar for Hammoud.
The idea of swimming in college soon would be, too. In 2010, Hammoud visited relatives in the U.S. for the first time. He stayed in shape during the trip by swimming with a club team in Virginia.
“I met a lot of college swimmers who were home for the summer, and I saw how differently swimming and college go together here in America compared to back home,” Hammoud says. “I visited my uncle again in the summer of 2011, and that was when I started contacting coaches and getting offers.”
So, it was no surprise when the ever-talented Hammoud ultimately signed with national powerhouse Auburn University. He swam two years for the Tigers but transferred to Georgia Tech in search of a fresh start and more options. Competing in a new environment did wonders for Hammoud’s swimming as he rewrote the team’s record book in just one year. The academic benefits cannot be understated either.
“I’ve been learning way more in class here,” Hammoud says. “Here, we have more outreach to people outside the university; we meet a lot of people here. I’m building a great network of successful people.”
Hammoud’s life after Tech is full of potential. He plans to stay in the U.S. for a few years to gain experience in software development before perhaps returning to Egypt. Ideally, he’d like to still swim competitively, as well. Hammoud would love to represent Egypt in the Olympics or World Championships someday but plans to “go with the flow.” Regardless of what happens, he’s grateful for all the opportunities competitive swimming has afforded him.
“Through swimming, I was able to do a lot of things that other people cannot do,” Hammoud says. “I travelled around the world. I was able to come to the U.S. for college and, being on athletic scholarship, most importantly, I am making connections with swimmers and friends all over the world.”
It’s amazing what a little “push” can do.