"I don't just represent one country" - Aram Mahmoud makes Olympic debut

The IOC Refugee Olympic Team athlete was beaten by Indonesian star Jonatan Christie in his Tokyo 2020 opener, but still hopes to prove he can mix it with best.

Aram Mahmoud has fulfilled his dream of becoming an Olympian.

The Dutch-based Syrian refugee is competing for the IOC Olympic Refugee Team at Tokyo 2020 but could not have faced a much tougher opener than medal contender Jonatan Christie.

The Indonesian took the first game in just 13 minutes, but Mahmoud fought back in the second before Christie wrapped it up 21-8, 21-14.

Before the Games, Mahmoud told Olympics.com that "it means a lot for me to be able to represent the Refugee Olympic team.

"I now don't just represent one country, but the many refugees around the world, so for me that's huge actually." Aram Mahmoud to Olympics.com

Using sport to help assimilate

Mahmoud fled war-torn Syria for the Netherlands in 2015 and found solace in badminton, a sport that he had been playing since he was seven years old.

"When I moved to the Netherlands, sport helped me a lot to to be able to communicate with other people and to learn the language and the culture. I made friends through playing badminton" he confessed.

"Sport helped me a lot, mentally to be able to forget all the stuff that is going on in the world and in Syria and just focus on playing badminton.

"When I'm playing badminton I can just have have fun and forget any or all the problems I had before" - Aram Mahmoud to Olympics.com


Raising his game to another level

Since January this year Mahmoud has been training in Denmark and has had the benefit of playing the game at an even higher level.

"I'm very excited about my preparations for the Olympic Games and I am happy to have this opportunity to be able to practice here with an amazing group and many coaches."

"My level now compared to when I first came here... I'm now much, much better than I was six months or seven months ago. So I'm very happy to be improve as a player." - Aram Mahmoud to Olympics.com

Mahmoud is now hoping that his participation at the Games will serve as inspiration for the next generation of displaced athletes dreaming of doing the same.

"My message to the other refugees who are watching me now, is to never give up. This is the most important thing. If you have a dream and you know that you can reach it or have the ability to reach it, then just go for it.

"Don't listed to others who say that you can't. Just be positive and think about yourself and about your future"

As a person who has had to rebuild a life for himself in a foreign land, Mahmoud hopes that when the world sees the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, they see athletes that "can do a lot of things."

"We have the ability to be who we want to be."

READ: Meet Aram Mahmoud: the rising refugee badminton star aiming at Tokyo 2020

A point to prove in Tokyo

Like all athletes heading to Tokyo, Mahmoud is hoping to be able to play to his potential, "I think all of us on the Refugee Olympic Team can prove first to themselves and then to the rest of the world that they too are able to compete at a high level."

With a ranking of 172, he was always likely to find life tough in Group G. He now faces world number 42 Loh Kean Yew on Monday (26 July) with just the group winner going through to the knockout stages of the competition.