Iraqi refugee in Greece sets sights on Paralympics

Iraqi refugee in Greece sets sights on Paralympics

Iraqi refugee in Greece sets sights on Paralympics

Written by Reuters

17 Dec, 2019 | 6:01 pm

Reuters-A 29-year-old Iraqi refugee in Greece has made it his dream to reach the Tokyo Paralympics as a wheelchair fencer.

It took Iraqi refugee Wisam Sami five attempts to finally succeed in reaching Greece with thousands of others fleeing war in his homeland.

Four years after a journey that took him from war-torn Mosul to Athens via Turkey, Sami says he hopes to clinch a spot to compete in fencing at Tokyo 2020.

Sami, who was left with a permanent limp in his right leg after a medical mistake at an Iraqi hospital when he was three, has spent the past two years training to be a wheelchair fencer.

“When I play this I feel I can do everything,” he told Reuters.

He has competed internationally this year and is now hopeful he could be selected. The Paralympics, as well as the Olympics, have had a refugees team since the Rio Games in 2016.

Sami, who worked as a photographic designer in Mosul, spent six months living in a tent in a refugee camp on the island of Samos before moving to the mainland with support from the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR. He said the time in the camp was a difficult one.

A project by Greece’s Paralympics Committee for refugees caught Sami’s eye in 2017 and since then he has been developing his sabre skills at a gym.

Sami’s coach Leonidas Koukos, who is also an aide to the head coach of the Greek Paralympic team, said that as a player, Sami was quick and determined.

“My biggest ambition for him is to be happy…if he achieves that through fencing, I will be very happy to have helped him,” said Koukos.

Sami competed in the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation Wheelchair fencing world cup in Warsaw in July and there are plans for him to compete in Italy and Hungary to give him additional exposure to competitions. The International Paralympic Committee gives wild cards to refugees to compete in a refugee team under the IPC flag.

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