Much like in the Rio Olympic Games, the Rio Paralympic Games will feature a team made up of refugees and on Friday the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced the two athletes who have made the team. Ibrahim Al Hussein and Sharad Nasajpour will be competing under the Paralympic flag and forming the Independent Paralympic Athletes (IPA) team.
This is the first time that the IPC has set up a dedicated team like this and the IPA team will be accompanied with a full staff. The IPA will have a Chef de Mission, a team official, and a coach to help the team have its most success.
Al Hussein is currently living in Athens, Greece after fleeing the fighting in Syria and seeking Asylum in the European Union. He will be competing in two events in the pool in Rio, the 50m and 100m freestyle in the S10 classification, as he has a leg amputation.
He has been training with the support of the Hellenic Paralympic Committee in Greece, who had him also as part of the Olympic Torch Relay. Al Hussein carried the torch in Athens early in the global relay, giving him plenty of attention.
Nasajpour is now living in the United States after arriving as a refugee from Iran, but has asked for confidentiality regarding his personal circumstances. Nasajpour will be competing in the men’s discus in the F37 classification, for coordination impairments, like Cerebral Palsy.
There will also be three support staff with the team, with Ramon Boixadera serving as the team official and Eleni Kokkinou serving as a swim coach. The Chef de Mission will be Tony Sainsbury who is a recipient of the Paralympic Order and has served as the Chef de Mission for Britain five times.
Both athletes have official refugee status and the IPC has been assisting with that as well as classification and anti-doping education. Al Hussein’s classification is conditional, so he will be given a formal classification while at Rio.
The IPC’s own Agitos Foundation will continue to support the two athletes after the Rio Paralympics in an effort to send them to the 2017 World Championships. That funding will also allow for more opportunities for refugee and asylum seekers to compete in Para sport.