Rami Anis braved the bombs of Aleppo, then was forced to leave his Syrian home for Turkey five years ago — all the while refusing to give up on an elusive dream of swimming in the Olympics.
He trained at the prestigious Galatasaray sports club in Istanbul, putting in lap after lap after lap, month after month. But soon, frustration set in because he was a refugee. That short window when a good athlete can truly become elite was closing fast. And he knew it.
“I could not swim for the club. I was just training without taking part. All the while, the war was lasting longer. And I was losing my best years as an athlete,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press.
So last year, at age 24 already, he took a different dive into the water, and crossed on a rubber boat from Turkey into Greece — a stretch of Aegean Sea that has become the tomb of all too many refugees — before setting off a 2,000-mile (3,000 kilometers) trek through the Balkans and onwards to Germany and eventually Belgium.
Now, as part of the first official refugee team at the Games, Anis will be going to Rio — having lost some of his edge and many illusions along the way. Still, he clings to one.
“I wish from my heart that there will be no more refugees and we can go back and participate for our country,” Anis said.
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