After spending three weeks of my summer in an office watching Olympic coverage for hours a day, I jumped at the opportunity to meet Faye Sultan ’16, since it would be my first Olympic interaction after weeks staring at a computer monitor.
At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect of someone as impressive as an Olympic athlete. However, from the second we met, Sultan was so effusive and personable that I felt totally justified in my extreme excitement about meeting her.
My first question wasn’t even Olympic related, but it seemed the most obvious: What is the first female Olympic athlete from Kuwait doing at Williams?
“My dad went here,” Sultan said, as if that would somehow dissipate my confusion. It didn’t, but I dropped it and went straight for the gold: What was it like to be an Olympic athlete? “I loved it,” Sultan said. “I can’t describe in words how much I enjoyed the experience. I was in tears when I left the Village. It’s true what they say about a lifetime of training for a moment of glory.” Wow. I was jealous already and we were less than two minutes into the interview.
Sultan was complimentary about the Olympians she met. “They were amazing,” she said. “Everyone was so talented and outgoing; you could have a conversation with anyone. Some of the bigger names could be arrogant, but in general, even the most famous are down to earth. I was playing Jenga in the Village game room with a very tall man and later found out he plays in the NBA. It was just that sort of thing.” The struggle to contain my jealousy wasn’t going well, as even minor details in Sultan’s description of her time in London made me visibly emotional. “I saw the Queen from my bedroom window and I couldn’t remember her name so I just shouted, ‘Queenie, Queenie!’ I was so excited,” Sultan said. I would’ve been, too (though I know her name is Elizabeth!).
In addition to the interpersonal magnificence of the experience, Sultan couldn’t emphasize how perfect all the elements of the facilities were in the Village. She was especially keen on the food, which Sultan described as “Ridiculous. It was incredible.” Her assessment of the food quality at the College? “Some people say that it’s so good … I don’t think so,” she said.
I decided to use the College’s food as a transition into Williams-related questions; how’s the entry, how are classes, etc. These questions were met with equally enthusastic answers. “I’ve never loved classes until I got here,” Sultan said. “The range of classes is so great.” She described her entry as great, the people also “so great,” and her professors as great. I wondered if all of her answers included the words “amazing” or “great.” I found out that, in fact, they did not, with my next question: How will being enrolled at the College affect your training for Rio 2016? Sultan offered an incredibly mature answer for a college first-year coming off an Olympic-high: “I am very interested in Rio, but I have to see how my year pans out with swimming here, and see where that takes me realistically,” she said. Luckily, Sultan predicts that the training she will be doing with the Ephs, specifically being involved in their weight lifting regiment as well as partaking in the team’s two-a-days, will allow her to be ready for Rio when it comes time for her to make a decision. As well as being ready for Rio, she hopes that the team’s commitment to exercise will stave off the curse of the “freshman 15.”
Sultan’s down-to-earth realism about going to Rio also came through when asked about her swimming goals for this season: “I want to become really close with the team because I’ve never really been on a team before,” she said. In addition to growing close with the team, Sultan told me she hopes to improve on her times and potentially try some new races in addition to the 50 freestyle, which she swam at the Olympics.
Our interview came to a close shortly thereafter, but Sultan’s genuine enthusiasm throughout the whole of our conversation was infectious. Although she is an Olympian, Sultan is just as excited as any first-year about starting off her four years in the purple bubble.