Syrian refugee with a prosthetic leg will carry the Olympic torch in Athens

first_imgMeet Ibrahim Al-Hussein, the 27-year-old athlete will be bearing the Olympic flame in Athens on 26 April, as part of the torch relay for the 2016 Games in Rio de JaneiroGrowing up, his life revolved around sports. His father who was a swim coach instilled a love of the water in Ibrahim and his 13 siblings. The waterway of the Euphrates River was their swimming pool with the Deir ez-Zor suspension bridge as the diving board.Speaking to UNHRC, Ibrahim said, “I used to climb to the top, dive into the water and swim in the river.”But things took an unfortunate turn when the war began in 2011. Ibrahim rushed out to help a friend who had been severely injured, but instead he was hit by a bomb. The incident left him with an amputated right leg. But the war and injury did not dampen his spirit. He fled the next year to Turkey, where he taught himself to walk again. In 2014 he arrived in the Greek island of Samos after crossing the Aegean Sea in a rubber dinghy.He had always dreamt of competing in the Olympics. “Imagine achieving one of your biggest dreams. Imagine that your dream of more than 20 years is becoming a reality.” he says. Ibrahim lives alone in a flat with a small garden in central Athens, and pays the rent without assistance. Photo: UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis His grueling sports training scheduled, despite a 10-hour overnight shift at a cafe, include;swimming three times a week with ALMA which is a Greek NGO for athletes with disabilities, and wheelchair basketball with his team in Maroussi, an Athens suburb. advertisementThe Syrian now swims the 50-meter freestyle in about 28 seconds, less than three seconds short of his timing before he lost part of his leg.  “It’s not just a game for me. It’s my life,” Ibrahim tells the UNHCR. In order to get into the pool, Ibrahim has to remove the prosthetic leg and hop to the starting block on his other foot. At the beginning, his flutter-kick was not as strong as before, but after a few sessions Ibrahim recovered confidence in the water. Without part of his leg, Ibrahim has had to regain his confidence in the water. Photo:UNHCR/Achilleas ZavallisIbrahim was selected to carry the Olympic torch following an announcement by Jacques Rogge, honorary president of the International Olympic Committee. This gesture was to show solidarity with the world’s refugees at a time when millions are fleeing war and persecution worldwide”I am carrying the flame for myself, but also for Syrians, for refugees everywhere, for Greece, for sports, for my swimming and basketball teams,” Ibrahim says. “My goal is to never give up. But to go on, to always go forward. And that I can achieve through sports.”  Ibrahim al-Hussein (centre), during a basketball training session in Marousi, Athens. UNHCR/Achilleas ZavallisThe flame was lit on 21 April in a ceremony at Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympic Games. Ibrahim will run with the flame through Eleonas, a temporary accommodation site in Athens for some 1,500 refugees.WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW:last_img

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