Wael Shueb hopes Olympic debut gives "strength" to refugees worldwide

German-based Syrian refugee goes out in first round of kata karate competition at Tokyo 2020.

Wael Shueb realised his ambition of competing at the Olympic Games on Friday (6 August).

The 33-year-old Syrian-born refugee was one of 11 men taking part in the kata karate competition at Tokyo 2020.

The IOC Refugee Olympic Team member scored 23.20 for his first routine, improving to 23.40 in his second for an average of 23.30.

That left him in 11th place with KIYUNA Ryo the top qualifier with 28.33.

Shueb was only just behind his rivals, and showed that he deserved his place among the sport's elite on the biggest stage of all.

How karate helped Wael Shueb build a new life in Germany

In 2015, with the war in Syria escalating, Shueb made the difficult decision to leave the capital Damascus.

The textile factory worker and part-time martial arts coach travelled for four weeks starting with a treacherous boat journey to Turkey.

After cycling through Macedonia, he arrived in Germany where he claimed asylum.

Sheub integrated into his new community by learning German and teaching karate to children and adults.

In the spring of 2018, he received the news that he was eligible for an IOC Refugee Athlete Scholarship to support in his training.

Sport opens the doors. Sport speaks all languages. Sport is integration world champion.

While Shueb is grateful for his new life, he often thinks of his family and friends back home.

He lost his brother-in-law to the war, and sometimes has to wait days for replies from messages to his sister, who also fled Damascus with her five children.

To compound matters, the medical infrastructure in his homeland is ill-equipped to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is very difficult for them. Unfortunately, I can hardly do anything for them,” he told newsy today.

I try to give them strength, by showing what you can achieve as a refugee.