COLUMBIA — Many spectators at this year's Missouri Grand Prix came to cheer on their favorite Olympians. However, MU grad student Moones Mellouli had a special reason to go see the Olympians. Mellouli had the chance to support his younger brother Ous Mellouli, who took home the gold in the 1,500 freestyle at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
“He’s very supportive of me,” Ous Mellouli said. “He’s always been there for me, and he’s definitely one of my closest friends.”
The Mellouli brothers are from Tunisia, where they began swimming at the age 3. After they completed high school, they decided to attend college in the United States so that they could continue swimming while earning a degree.
“It was hard to get adjusted at first,” Ous Mellouli said. “But for me it was an incredible experience.”
Moones Mellouli went to Drury University and Ous Mellouli attended USC and both are now working toward Masters degrees. Ous Mellouli is still USC, while Moones Mellouli came to MU on an academic scholarship. He is a teaching assistant in the Math department will graduate in May.
With busy schedules, it is hard for the brothers to spend time together. Moones Mellouli said the brothers get to see each other only about three times a year including the Missouri Grand Prix.
"This meet is a great opportunity for him to come to Mizzou," Moones Mellouli said. "It's really cool and I'm excited to see him."
Although Ous Mellouli said he enjoys coming to Columbia to catch up with his brother, he admits he enjoys the scenery in Los Angeles much better.
“Mizzou is a cool college town,” Ous Mellouli said, “but it’s very different from USC, and I think that I picked the right school for me.”
After the Grand Prix is over, Ous Mellouli said he plans on finishing up school and beginning preparations for the 2012 Olympics.
Although Moones is no longer swimming competitively, his love for swimming has lead him and two of his friends to start the first swim club at MU. Founded in September, the MU Swim Club now has more than 35 members. The group travels to competitions throughout the United States and recently earned second at a competition in Indiana.
"It's the best thing that has happened to me at Mizzou so far," Moones Mellouli said.
Although he is busy with the swim club, Moones Mellouli said he still plans to attend as many of Ous Mellouli's events as he can, especially the major ones.
"I took a vow after I graduated in 2006 that I would go watch him at every big event that he competes in," Moones Mellouli said.
Moones Mellouli has purchased tickets for Ous Mellouli's next big competition, the 2009 World Championships from July 18 through Aug 2 in Rome. Moones Mellouli said he wouldn't miss it for the world.
"He's not just my brother," he said. "He's my best friend."