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Syrian-American swims for war ravaged country


03-31-2016 10:58 BJT

A 28- year-old Syrian-American swimmer from Los Angeles, Azad Al-Barazi, is stepping up to offer a symbolic gesture of strength amid the ongoing Syrian and refugee crisis by competing on behalf of the war ravaged nation at the Olympics in August. He is determined to bring the Syrian people together through sport, while putting aside the politics tearing the country apart.

When Azad Al-Barazi hits the pool for swim practice, he is focused on his form, his speed, and his breathing. But he says the intense workout he endures twice a day training for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games held in Rio is made easier when he considers the people he is swimming for.

Al -Barazi holds a dual citizenship between his parents’ home nation of Syria and the U.S., where he lives. He qualified to represent Syria’s team at the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games, hoping to serve as a beacon of hope for his people despite the crisis within the country.

Soon after the games, he took a break from swimming to focus on a career in medicine. But as Syria’s situation grew worse and a refugee crisis broke out, Al- Barazi realized the best way to inspire his people to fight from afar was to get back in the water. 

Given the tense situation in Syria, it is unclear if that country will be able to send an entire team to the Olympics this year. But for the first time, the Olympic committee has announced that a team of refugees will also be invited to compete under the Olympic flag, which means Al -Barazi may have a chance to swim alongside other Syrians.

One sports analyst says that inclusion of all countries, politics aside, is why the Olympics exists in the first place.

Al-Barazi says he can swim lap after lap to show Syria's people they are worth fighting for.

“I am falling apart, I am hurting, but am I hurting more than the mom who lost her kid or the families trying to cross the Mediterranean and they are drowning. Things like that put things in perspective,” said Al-Barazi.

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