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From Refugee to Athlete: Alsalami's Journey

Mohammad Amin Alsalami   -  
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AP Photo


When Mohammad Amin Alsalami reached Berlin in October 2015, he felt cold, isolated, and longing for home.

The Syrian refugee had left his war-torn hometown of Aleppo, travelled to Turkey, crossed the Mediterranean to Greece on a rubber boat, and walked to Germany.

Like millions of other migrants, he was seeking a place where he could create a future without bombs and violence.

Almost ten years later, Alsalami, now 29, has been granted asylum, learned German, and made new friends.

He is now living his dream of becoming a world-class athlete.

He found his passion for athletics during physical education in school at age 15.

A teacher noticed his talent for long jump and encouraged him to participate in local and national competitions in Syria.

But when civil war broke out, he could no longer practice.

His family, the youngest of nine siblings, was displaced several times within Syria, then fled to Turkey.

Alsalami decided to continue to Europe on his own.

He credits his passion for athletics with helping him through the initial hardships in his new country.

During the first weeks in Berlin, he searched for different stadiums and gyms on Google Maps so he could start practicing long jump again.

He remembers walking through the first snow to finally find one of the city’s big indoor gymnasiums.

"Sport is everything to me, especially in Germany where I feel alone. Life here is tough, but training and performing well bring me so much joy. It's amazing," he says.

Despite his excitement for the Games, Alsalami admits he's a bit sad that he can’t represent his home country.

Still, he is training hard to reach the finals.

He hopes the world will see that members of the Refugee Olympic Team like him are professional athletes, not just refugees.

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