Syrian refugee living in Greece to compete at Rio Paralympics

Athens: A Syrian refugee who is living, working and training in Greece will be one of the two refugees who will compete at the Rio Paralympics in September, forming the Independent Paralympic Athletes Team.

“We are very happy that our proposal for the formation of such a team with refugees was accepted and the athletes will participate in the Rio Games. We feel very happy that our own ‘child’ Ibrahim al Hussein will see his dream becoming reality,” Hellenic Paralympic Committee President Yorgos Fountoulakis said in a statement on Friday.

The press announcement was made shortly after the official announcement of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) that al Hussein will take part in the Games forming the Independent Team with Shahrad Nasajpour, an Iranian refugee athlete currently living in the US.

It is for the first time that such a team will compete at the Paralympic Games, following in the footsteps of the refugee athletes who took part earlier this August in the Summer Olympics with the support of the International Olympic Committee.

Al Hussein came into the spotlight last April when he represented the refugees carrying the Olympic Flame inside a refugee camp in Athens a few hours before the handover ceremony to the Brazilian hosts of the Summer Olympics and the upcoming Paralympics.

In Rio, he will compete in swimming in the men’s 50m and 100m freestyle S10 (provisional) as a leg amputee with his Greek coach Eleni Kokkinou by his side.

Al Hussein lost part of his leg during a bombing in 2012. He was hospitalised for a year in Turkey before crossing the Aegean Sea to Samos island in 2014, where he requested asylum in Greece.

“I have been dreaming of this for 22 years. I thought my dream had gone when I lost my leg but now it is back for real. I can’t believe I am going to Rio. I want to send a message to all those injured that they too can achieve their dreams,” the Para athlete said.

His presence at the Games along Nasajpour will help raise awareness of the plight of the millions of refugees and asylum seekers and spread the Paralympic values of courage and determination.

The two refugees will march first at the opening ceremony of the Rio Paralympic Games on September 7.