IPC Announces Refugee Paralympic Team for Tokyo 2020

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced the six athletes who made the refugee Paralympic team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games on Wednesday.

2020 Refugee Paralympic Team

  1. Ibrahim Al Hussein / Para swimming / Syrian refugee living in Athens, Greece
  2. Alia Issa / Para athletics / Syrian refugee living in Athens, Greece
  3. Parfait Hakizimana / Para taekwondo / Burundian refugee living in Mahama Camp, Rwanda
  4. Abbas Karimi / Para swimming / Afghan refugee living in Fort Lauderdale, USA
  5. Shahrad Nasajpour / Para athletics / iranian refugee living in Phoenix, USA
  6.  Anas Al Khalifa / Para canoe / syrian refugee living in Halle, Germany

Ibrahim Al Hussein and Abbas Karimi will compete in Para swimming. Al Hussein competed at  the 2016 Rio Paralympics in the 50 free and 100 free.

24-year-old Karimi raced the 50 fly, 50 back, and 50 free in the S5 classification at the 2021 U.S. Paralympic Trials. He won a silver medal at the 2017 World Para Swimming Championships. 

“I believe I have the potential to make the podium at the Paralympics,” he said according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR.) 

“And I believe it is important for all refugees and our legacy that one of us refugee athletes make the podium, it can bring change for refugees and inspire and bring hope.”

Alia Issa is the first woman in history on the refugee Paralympic team and the only woman on the team this year.  20-year-old Issa will compete in Para athletics alongside Sahrad Nasajpour. Nasajpour is also a two-time Paralympian like Al Hussein.

Parfait Hakizimana will represent the team in Para taekwondo and Anas Al Khalifa will compete in Para canoe. It’s important to note that Hakizimana’s eligibility to compete in Tokyo “is subject to him being classified by August 1,” according to the press release.

Together, they represent more than 82 million displaced people around the world. The refugee Paralympic team had its debut at the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games where the team consisted of two athletes.

“I would urge people everywhere to support the world’s most courageous sports team, the Refugee Paralympic Team,” IPC President Andrew Parsons said in the press release. “These athletes exemplify how change starts with sport: they have suffered life-changing injuries, fled for their safety and undertaken dangerous journeys, but despite the many barriers put in their way, they have become elite athletes ready to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

“Sport is a powerful tool to include refugees with disabilities in society and the announcement of the Refugee Paralympic Team is a poignant moment for the IPC – we are delivering on a commitment we made at the UNHCR Global Refugee Forum in 2019 to promote equal participation in sporting events for refugees.”

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto also welcomed the team. “I hope that the Refugee Team will show the world the endeavour, the resilience and the hope of human beings through sporting competition, and that they will perform at their best with a wish for peace,” he said. 

“We will continue to cooperate with the IPC and relevant local municipalities, and will make every effort to ensure everything proceeds smoothly and safely for the Refugee Team.”

The 2020 Tokyo Paralympics are scheduled to begin on August 24 and they will go through September 5th.

Full Announcement Video

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