Thu, 16 Sep 2021

by Sportswriters Lu Rui, Ding Wenxian and Ji Ye

TOKYO, July 26 (Xinhua) -- Luck was not on Syria-born shuttler Aram Mahmoud's side when he lost 2-0 to Singapore's Loh Kean Yew in the men's singles badminton preliminaries at Tokyo 2020 on Monday. His journey to the Tokyo Olympics may have ended, but the pursuit of his badminton dreams has only just begun.

"It was amazing to play today. I'm so happy today I'm here," Mahmoud, a member of the Refugee Olympic Team, said at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza after making his Olympic debut on Saturday, losing to Indonesia's Jonatan Christie.

"[Playing at the Olympics] is like a dream for me, for my life, especially in Tokyo," Mahmoud said. "It was awesome to be here and I am also very proud to be able to represent the refugee team."

The 24-year-old is the only badminton player among the 29 members of the Refugee Olympic Team at Tokyo 2020. Meanwhile, he is also the first athlete on the refugee team to play badminton at the Olympics.

"When they announced that I was in the team, it was one of the best moments in my life," he said.

Despite a 0-2 loss to world No.7 Christie in straight sets, Mahmoud put up a spirited performance and scored 14 points in the second game to Christie's 21.

Mahmoud, who is currently ranked No. 172 in men's singles, admitted it was a tough game for him. "This is my first time against him. I saw him at the Slovenia International Series, so I could see how he played, and I observed his special shots."

"In the first set I was a bit nervous, especially because I was facing a very good player. But in the second game I was comfortable and I had nothing to lose. Then some of my shots came," Mahmoud said.

"I was very happy to challenge him in the beginning of the second set, but the level of the opponent is much higher," he added.

In 2015, Mahmoud left Syria as the civil war in the country had prevented him from studying or training. He relocated to the Netherlands, where he eventually settled in Almere. In January 2021, he started training at Badminton Europe's Centre of Excellence in Holbaek, Denmark.

Representing the refugee team, Mahmoud said he is playing not only for his country, but for refugees all around the world. "We can achieve something - and there are a lot of people who need that motivation to achieve the unexpected," he once said.

"We can achieve something. We are not just people who went out of our country; we also can do things in other countries. If we have a dream we can achieve it but we have to work hard for it," he noted in an earlier interview with the Badminton World Federation.

"The last few years I worked hard to get this opportunity, and for every athlete the Olympics is a big dream," he added.

Mahmoud took up badminton at age seven in Syria, following his sister by making the switch from gymnastics. His father, who coached him and his siblings when they were younger, also encouraged him to take up badminton.

"I represent myself, I represent my family and I represent my sister also," he told reporters.

Mahmoud added that he hoped he could break through into the world top 100 some day.

"I hope I can play much better, and if I do that I will be satisfied. This has been my dream my whole life," he said. "I hope that I can continue developing myself."

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