Syrian badminton player Aram Mahmoud, who competes as a refugee on the international badminton circuit under the Netherlands flag, has been named as one of 37 Refugee Athlete Scholarship-Holders in contention to be part of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The 21-year-old, currently No. 190 in the men’s singles world rankings, has refugee status in the Netherlands and, as an independent player, has been trying to raise his level by training at all training centres where he was welcome.
This includes the national training centre in Papendal, as well as the Regional Training Centre, Badminton Topsport Flevoland and Cuntapay Badminton Academy, the latter three based in Almere, where he lives and also trains at local club BV Almere.
It is only since October 2018 that he has played in international tournaments. His results this year include victory at the YONEX Latvia International 2019, a quarterfinal appearance at the 54 Portuguese International Championships 2019, and most recently a final four result at the RSL Lithuania International 2019 two weeks ago.
These great performances have seen his ranking improve from 300 at the start of March to 190 as of 18 June. The rise since September 2018 when he was ranked 937 is even more spectacular.
Mahmoud published on social media yesterday: “I’m thrilled to tell you that today, on World Refugee Day, the IOC through its Olympic Solidarity programme has awarded me a scholarship. The scholarship is part of the Refugee Athlete Support programme.
“All people have ambitions and dreams. As an athlete, my dream is to compete one day in the Olympics. This scholarship means I can still pursue this dream.
“I’m grateful that with thi scholarship I can improve my preparation and participation in international tournaments, and at the same time leaving sufficient time to focus on my integration in the Netherlands.”
Mahmoud is one of 13 new individual athletes in various sports identified and assisted by the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) of their country of asylum to be named under the Refugee Athlete Support Programme.
The announcement came on World Refugee Day, which is celebrated every year on 20 June.
BWF President Poul-Erik Høyer said this was fantastic news for Mahmoud and wished him all the best in his endeavour to be part of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020.
“The Refugee Athlete Support Programme is a tremendous initiative by the IOC and it is great that a talented young badminton player in Aram Mahmoud now has the opportunity to chase his Olympic dream,” Høyer said.
“The extra support he will receive as a Refugee Athlete Scholarship-Holder will allow him to continue to compete and train at the highest level over the next 12 months in the lead up to Tokyo.
“The BWF has for many years been committed to promoting and supporting humanitarian and social development initiatives around the world, including the refugee cause.
“We have a long-standing partnership with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and earlier this year joined forces to introduce badminton to the many Syrian refugee children living in refugee camps located on the Lebanon-Syria border.
“We have also signed an MoU with the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation (THF) and World Taekwondo (WT) to provide avenues of sport and physical activity for refugee children in Jordan.
“Hopefully Aram’s quest to be an Olympian will inspire other young refugees, from Syria and around the world, to also chase their dreams and to play sport at an elite level and perhaps even pick up a badminton racket.”
Following the success of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team Rio 2016, Olympic Solidarity (OS) launched the Refugee Athlete Support Programme which offers NOCs the opportunity to identify and support refugee athletes living in their host countries to prepare and participate in high-level competitions.
Through training grants, Olympic Solidarity and their host NOC help refugee athletes not only to train with the aim of qualifying for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 but also to continue their sporting career and to build their future.
IOC President Thomas Bach said in Lausanne yesterday: “With the announcement of the list of Refugee Scholarship-Holders, we want to show that refugees are an enrichment to sport and to society.
“All athletes announced today are aiming to be part of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team Tokyo 2020. This team is the continuation of a human journey that started with the first IOC Refugee Olympic Team Rio 2016.
“The team will send a signal of hope to all the refugees around the world and will be a reminder to everybody of the magnitude of the refugee crisis.”
The composition of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020 will be announced in June 2020.