Syrian bomb victim to carry Olympic torch

May 1, 2016 | 05:47 pm PT
A victim of the war in Syria who was once a competitive swimmer, will take part in the Olympic torch relay in Greece to raise awareness to the plight of refugees from his homeland.

A 27-year-old Syrian refugee who was granted asylum in Greece will be a torch-bearer for the Rio Games and will run with the Olympic flame through a refugee camp in Athens next week.

Ibrahim al-Hussein crossed the Aegean sea on a rubber boat from Turkey to Greece in 2014 after fleeing fighting in Syria which cost him part of his leg in a bombing, the Hellenic Olympic Committee and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said.

He has been given asylum in Greece, the main route into Europe since 2015 for more than a million people from conflict-wracked or poor countries in the Middle-East, Asia and Africa.

Al Hussein now works in a cafe in Athens. The son of a swimming coach, he and many of his 13 siblings swam competitively from the age of five. He used a suspension bridge in the city of Deir ez-Zor as a diving board until it was destroyed during the war.

His right leg was amputated from the mid-calf down and he now walks with a prosthetic leg that a private doctor arranged for him to receive for free.

In Athens, al-Hussein trains as a swimmer at a former Olympic sport complex for the Athens 2004 Games and also plays for a wheelchair basketball team in an Athens suburb.

"The whole thing was like a test," he says of losing his leg.

"Not a small thing to go through. At first I didn't accept it, but finally I came to terms with it. I lived like there's nothing wrong and I'm still doing that. The truth is I've lost my leg but I'm just like everyone else."

He once dreamed of competing in the Olympics but his athletics career was ended by the war and his injury.

He said bearing the Olympic flame would be an honour, and he would carry it for all Syrians and r
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