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Tokyo 2021: Alia Issa, first para-athlete of the refugee team, wants to be an example

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For the second time in the history of the Paralympic Games, refugee athletes will be represented. The Syrian-born mace-thrower Alia Issa is the first woman to be part of it.

At 20, Alia Issa will make history at the Paralympic Games. The young woman, who will compete in the club-throwing event, will become the first para-athlete of the refugee team in Tokyo.

On the eve of the opening ceremony, during a press conference, she said she was “very proud” and “very happy” to be one of the two flag bearers of the refugee team in Tokyo, made up of six para-athletes in total.

“Try to play sports every day”

Alia Issa was born in Greece in 2001 into a Syrian refugee family. As the Greek site Amna tells it, his father arrived in this country five years earlier in search of a better life. At age 4, Alia unfortunately contracted smallpox, an infection that damaged her nervous system. She has to move from a wheelchair and has speech difficulties.

“I had a hard time adjusting and I had no company, I had no friends, the children made fun of me,” she told Amna. It was only three years ago, in college, that she discovered sports and club throwing. The young girl quickly proved to be promising and performed a series of performances, until she took 4th place in the European Championship last June.

At the same time, she continues to go to high school and hopes to study medicine, the dream of her father, who died of cancer when she was 16 years old. “My father, if he was alive now, would be very proud if I took part in the competitions,” said Alia.

By joining this team, she hopes to become a source of inspiration for other refugee women living with a disability. “Don’t stay at home, try to play sports every day, be outside, in the world. I hope to be a first example to follow,” she said during her team’s press conference . Alia then hopes to obtain Greek nationality and compete in the colors of this country.


A “message of hope” for the Afghan people

This is only the second time that the 82 million refugees from around the world will be represented by a team at the Paralympic Games, after Rio 2016. “We are very grateful to the countries hosting refugees and we encourage countries that can support them. We hope we can leave this strong message to the Japanese people, “said Ileana Rodriguez, the team leader.

Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, accepts refugees only in small quantities: only 47 people in 2020, for example, or just over 1% of asylum seekers that year, according to official figures.

Ileana Rodriguez also spoke on Monday of the current situation in Afghanistan, stressing that the “message of hope” that the Paralympic refugee team wants to carry is also addressed to the Afghan people.

No athlete from this country will be able to participate in the competitions in Tokyo. Since the Taliban took power, commercial flights to and from Afghanistan have been banned. Taekwondo champion Zakia Khudadadi should have written the history of Afghan sport. On August 24, she was to become the first woman to represent her country at the Tokyo Paralympic Games.

The national flag will however be present on Tuesday at the opening ceremony as a “sign of solidarity”, announced Monday the president of the International Paralympic Committee, Andrew Parsons.

With AFP

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