Campriani sure Olympic family will make refugee shooters live their dreams

They may not be able to represent the country of their origin but Italian Olympic champion Niccolo Campriani feels refugee shooters will be at home in Tokyo.
By Naveen Peter

Representing one’s nation at the Olympics is a dream that athletes cherish throughout their sporting life.

Some go a step further to win a medal at the Games, while for others it’s the opportunity to compete for their flag that trumps everything else.

Training and mentoring three refugee shooters -- Mahdi, Khaoula and Luna -- with a sole focus on making the cut for the Tokyo Olympics, former Italian shooter Niccolo Campriani realises that his shooters may not have a nation to represent if they are to qualify for Tokyo 2020.

But that hasn’t stopped him one bit.

“You know, when it comes to Khaoula, especially, she would really love to represent not the country where she grew up but her country of origin. But it’s tough, right,” he shared.

The larger picture

“It's really about the feeling of belonging to a community. That's the whole point that you have 206 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) walking into the stadium (during the Parade of the Nations) and we are part of our respective nations.

“At the same time, I do feel that in my sports career, I had two families. One was the Italian team and the other was my (shooting) sports community. What I want to say is maybe they find a different community to belong to. Even if it's true that they will not represent their country, they still will have a community to be a part of.”

Taking examples from his own career and the experience that he has had so far travelling and seeing the refugee shooters compete at various international events, Niccolo Campriani is confident that the shooters won’t miss out on the Olympic experience if they are to make the cut.

“I could feel this when we competed at a few World Cups and how everyone was eager to know their story and support them,” he said. 

“It’s a different way to be a part of a community. But it's still belonging to a community. For me, I feel extremely close to my peers. With Abhinav (Bindra), I mean, we grew up together. I might have spent more time with Abhinav than with my mum since 2007. I think I have more things in common with Abhinav than, I don't know, a boxer from Naples.”

Moreover, with Mahdi eligible to compete under the Afghanistan flag, the Italian is hoping for a unique moment at the Games next year.

“The Refugee (Olympic) Team will walk into the stadium after Greece, if I am not mistaken, at the Opening Ceremony. And interestingly Afghanistan would follow them, given that we go by alphabetical order from there. If they both make it, I hope to be somewhere in between,” he signed off with a sliver of hope. 

Niccolo Campriani’s journey with the refugee shooters has been well documented in the Olympic Channel Originals series Taking Refuge: Target Tokyo 2020.

The series is available on the Olympic Channel website.