Rio refugee team stay positive despite media focus on tragic stories

Published August 3rd, 2016 - 03:17 GMT
Rami Anis (Photo: rtlnieuws.nl)
Rami Anis (Photo: rtlnieuws.nl)

Fan support, positive memories from the past and encounters with other star athletes buoy the team of refugee athletes competing at the Olympics, despite the intense media focus on their personal histories.

The 10-member team took part in yet another press conference in Rio de Janeiro Tuesday, three days before the start of the Games, in which they were asked about what horrors they fled, whether relatives had died and what they had lost by leaving their home countries.

Syrian swimmer Rami Anis, who lives in Belgium, told reporters he would rather answer questions "about the future, about championships" than about the dark past.

His compatriot Yusra Mardini said she keeps a positive mindset despite the media scrutiny about the war by recalling good things about Syria, and by thinking about her supporters.

"A lot of people are writing (to) us, telling us their stories. A lot of people have hopes in us. And we can't let them down," said 18-year-old Mardini, who has fled to Germany.

In addition, the refugee athletes draw strength from being together with the world's top athletes.

"We saw world champions and Olympic champions," Mardini said. "It's an amazing experience."

Anis said he hopes to be able to take a selfie with his US idol Michael Phelps.

The refugee team was organized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The team consists of swimmers from Syria, runners from South Sudan and Ethiopia, and judokas from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


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