Mohammad Alsalami aspires to demonstrate that refugees are capable of delivering outstanding performances.

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Mohammad Alsalami aspires to demonstrate that refugees are capable of delivering outstanding performances.

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Recipient of an IOC scholarship, Mohammad Amin Alsalami made history as the first refugee athlete to compete in a technical event at the World Athletics Championships. His next milestone: Paris 2024.

Twelve years have passed since the onset of war in his native Syria, and eight years since he sought refuge in Germany. In 2023, Mohammad Amin Alsalami arrived at the National Athletics Centre in Budapest, Hungary, for the World Championships.

Stepping into a packed stadium was an incredible experience,” Alsalami, who was awarded the IOC scholarship in December, shared with Olympics.com.

Soon, he would take flight: Alsalami achieved a 7.46m jump in his world championship debut, securing 33rd place overall. His participation marked a significant moment as the first refugee athlete to compete in a technical event at this level.

His journey had been long and arduous, extending far beyond the sandy pit in Budapest.

In Syria, uninterrupted practice was impossible,” he recounted. “I faced the challenges of war, fled my homeland, and endured a major injury. There were gaps in my training.”

While competing at the World Championships fulfilled a long-held dream, Alsalami has his sights firmly set on the Olympic Summer Games in Paris 2024.

I aim to demonstrate that refugees possess the same potential as any other athlete, that we too can deliver outstanding performances, said the 29-year-old Alsalami, speaking in German. “This is what fuels my pursuit of becoming a world-class athlete.

From a young age, I was always remarkably swift,” Alsalami recounted, recalling how a sports teacher in Syria encouraged him to take up long and triple jump at the age of 16. “My initial coach was a long and triple jumper. He was my role model and he convinced me to pursue it.”

With the onset of war in Syria in 2011, Alsalami endeavored to continue his training in his homeland. However, the constant threat of bombings and the sight of injured individuals in the streets rendered it impossible.

“Maintaining a peaceful existence was out of the question,” he remarked. “I told myself, ‘I need to go to Europe to lead a normal life.'”

Alsalami’s odyssey to Germany was a strenuous, perilous undertaking. Upon arrival, he sought to train elsewhere but encountered difficulties obtaining a visa.

Choosing to remain in Germany, he engaged in a candid conversation with himself: “I reminded myself, ‘Hey, you must acknowledge that you are a refugee. You simply must persist and never give up. Exercise patience and believe in yourself, whether it’s in sports or in everyday life.

Credit By Photo: olympics.com

Mohammad Amin Alsalami, representing the World Athletics Refugee Team, competes in the Men’s Long Jump Qualification during day five of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 2023 at the National Athletics Centre on August 23, 2023, in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images for World Athletics)

IOC Scholarship: A Game-Changer for Alsalami

Alsalami reflects on the transformative impact of his inclusion in the IOC refugee program, stating, “It changed my life.” He further elaborates, “It was amazing. [Previously], I had to work tirelessly to support myself. Thanks to the IOC support, I can now devote more time to training and preparing for Paris.

While this development represents a significant shift for him, it doesn’t solve everything. Alsalami acknowledges this reality and emphasizes that it fuels his determination. “I’ll be candid with you. I still feel the weight of being a refugee every day, and it’s challenging to come to terms with that. But I have to accept it,” he candidly shares. “Engaging in sports is a massive help. It provides me with a distraction, offers a different perspective, and paints new images in my mind compared to what I experienced in Syria.

He aspires to offer the world a fresh perspective on what a refugee truly looks like. This remains a paramount goal as he gears up for Paris.

And of course, there’s the ambition to secure a spot in the long jump final.

The Olympics hold immense significance,” he expresses.They represent the ultimate dream for any athlete. I can already assure you that this moment will forever be etched in my memory.

I am aiming to surpass the 8m mark and advance to the Olympic final. I want to demonstrate the capabilities of refugee athletes.

Reference

https://olympics.com/en/news/refugee-scholarship-ioc-mohammad-alsalami-athletics-long-jump-great-performances

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