Meet the Syrian swimmer in first Paralympics 'refugee team'

Meet the Syrian swimmer in first Paralympics 'refugee team'
Ibrahim Al Hussein lost his leg in a rocket strike. Fleeing to Greece for a better life, he hopes to inspire fellow refugees to reach their dreams
2 min read
08 September, 2016
Ibrahim al-Hussein has defied the odds to be competing in Rio

A life-changing injury, forced to leave home and a perilous journey to safety – it's a similar story for many refugees.

But for one Syrian man, who sought a better life in Europe after losing his leg in the long-running civil war, his next chapter offers a glimmer of hope to millions who have fled their homeland.

Ibrahim al-Hussein is one of two refugees who will be competing in this year’s Paralympic games.

Para athletes have competed as independents at the Paralympics before, but this is the first time those with refugee and asylee status have been given special recognition.

The Syrian-born swimmer lost his leg in 2013. After going to the aid of an injured friend he was injured in an explosion from a rocket strike.

Hussein managed to crawl away from the scene and was taken to a clinic.

“I woke up twice during surgery and I saw everything,” Hussein told

He was sent home the same day and with little medical aid able to reach Syria, Hussein lived with the excruciating pain.

Fleeing his native country to Turkey, Hussein made the perilous journey by boat to Greece. Getting around in a wheelchair and on crutches, it was not long before Hussein, whose father was a swimming coach, built up his strength to begin training again.

He was thrust into the limelight during the Rio 2016 Olympic Torch Relay, when he carried the torch through the Eleonas refugee camp in Athens, home to 1,600 people.

At the time he said competing in the Paralympics would be a “beautiful opportunity”.

“I have one wish – gold! I want to send a message to all those who have been injured, that you can still reach your dreams,” he said.

He will compete in Rio in the 50m and 100m freestyle S10 as a leg amputee.

Hussein, and fellow refugee Paralympian, Iranian discus thrower Shahrad Nasajpour, will stay in the Paralympic Village, alongside more than 4,350 athletes from 165 countries.

For official presentations, such as medal and village welcome ceremonies, the Paralympic anthem will be played.