Ibrahim Al Hussein is a Syrian swimmer who represented the Independent Paralympic Athletes Team at the 2016 Summer Paralympics and resides in Greece. He competed in the 50 m and 100 m freestyle events and served as a flag bearer at the 2016 Summer Paralympics Parade of Nations.
Al Hussein, 27, has been active in sports from a very young age. When he was a child he competed in judo and swimming, inspired and encouraged to take up sport by his father who is a swimming coach.
In 2013, Al Hussein was sheltering at home when he heard his friend calling for help. His friend had been injured, and Al Hussein immediately went to his aid. What happened next would change Al Hussein’s life forever.
A rocket struck near to where Al Hussein, and three of his friends, had gone to help. Al Hussein’s leg was blown off and the rest of the group were injured too.
Al Hussein managed to crawl away from the scene, was rescued by some other friends and taken to a clinic. The facilities were basic, but doctors operated on his leg.
“I woke up twice during surgery and I saw everything,” Al Hussein said.
He was sent home the same day.
The months that followed were incredibly difficult. With little medical aid able to get through to Syria, Al Hussein lived with excruciating pain and little to no medication.
He escaped the war to Turkey hoping to receive better care. After discovering that would not be the case, Al Hussein decided to make the perilous journey, by boat, to Greece. He got around using a wheelchair and crutches.
“After getting treatment in Greece is when things started to turn positive and I got back into sports,” Al Hussein said. “I began training four hours a day swimming and playing wheelchair basketball.”
A friend working for a Greek social platform for refugees encouraged him to continue sport: “Everything is thanks to her,” he said.
Al Hussein continued: “The external pain makes me want to perform, it gives me energy. Sport is an outlet for that energy.
“I have no problem not eating or not having a home, but you can’t take away my training.”