Aram Mahmoud, the former Syrian player now representing the Netherlands, is keeping his Olympic dreams alive by training at clubs in Germany and Belgium as he has struggled with finding a consistent training base.
Mahmoud, who won the Latvia International last June, is one of 37 Refugee Athlete Scholarship Holders in contention to be part of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020. The composition of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020 will be announced in June 2020. Mahmoud relocated to the Netherlands from Syria in 2015 following unrest in his home country.
“It’s difficult to find daily training, I’m searching outside the Netherlands,” said Mahmoud, who is based in Almere. “For example, I train in Germany and Belgium. It’s a bit confusing for me to find good training. But I’m lucky I have a lot of friends and they invite me. One of my friends said I could train for a week in Germany and that was nice.
“I do train in Almere but the structure is not high level. There aren’t many players I can train with. A couple of the best players are training elsewhere.
“In Belgium I train with their players, and they have a schedule, and I did the same thing in Germany. But when I’m in Netherlands, I make my own schedule; I’m looking for a trainer but it’s difficult.”
Despite his struggles, the 22-year-old has performed creditably. After winning the Latvia International, he made the semifinals of the Lithuanian International. He won three qualifying rounds at the Irish Open and took a game off Indian prodigy Lakshya Sen.
“I learnt a lot of things, and I try to use it in my game,” says Mahmoud. “It’s difficult for me because I have a slow game. Everyone says I have to be faster and more explosive. I’m training to be explosive. It’s difficult to take this step. I will try to mix my shots, and I have to work on knowing when I have to play fast shots and when to play slow shots.
“I hope I can give everything on court, and develop my skills and fitness levels to be able to compete with top players,” he says.
Mahmoud last played for Syria in 2014, participating in the Asian Youth U-19, World Junior Championships, and the Wilson Hellas International. After his relocation to the Netherlands in June 2015, it took him three years to adjust to his new life, and he resumed his international career with the Dutch International in April 2018.
Read this story in our latest edition of Shuttle World (Pg 11).