Muna Dahouk makes Olympic bow for IOC Refugee Olympic Team

Dahouk may have spent less time on the hallowed mat at the Nippon Budokan than she would have wanted, but making Tokyo 2020 was a victory in itself for the Syrian refugee.

Judo has been a massive part of Muna Dahouk's life since she was six years old with her journey taking her all the way to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

On Tuesday (27 July), she stepped onto the mat at judo's spiritual home, the Nippon Budokan arena.

She faced what looked on paper a stiff task against Cuba's 2019 Pan American Games champion Maylin del Toro Carvajal, and so it proved.

Del Toro swiftly placed Dahouk in a kuzure-kami-shiho-gatame hold and pinned her opponent to win by ippon just 38 seconds into the contest.

Muna Dahouk earned an IOC Refugee Athlete Scholarship and was delighted in June when word through that she had been chosen as one of six judoka selected for the 29-strong IOC Refugee Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020.

Her father was a judo sensei in Damascus, Syria, and a young Muna followed her older sister Oula to the dojo to learn with Dad.

When civil war broke out and they lost their father, the family fled with the sisters following their older brother and mother to the Netherlands.

"After the death of our father we decided to leave. We could not live in Syria. It was too dangerous," Muna told in 2020.

"We are living in the Netherlands, where we arrived from Syria about a year and a half ago after our mum, who was already there, sent us an 'invitation' to reunite."

Both sisters have represented the IJF Refugee Team in competition with -63kg judoka Muna taking part in the 2019 Budapest Grand Prix and last year's Paris and Düsseldorf Grand Slams.

Like so many athletes in her situation, sport serves as an escape and a constant where the hardships and trauma can be put to one side.

"Judo is everything for me, because I live according to their values. They are the values of life, neither more nor less," she explained to in July 2019.

Maylin Toro Carvajal of Team Cuba pins Muna Dahouk of the Refugee Olympic Team compete during the Women’s Judo 63kg Elimination Round of 32 at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Nippon Budokan on July 27, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Representing refugees everywhere

For Dahouk, this was about much more than simply winning or losing.

The 25-year-old is an Olympian forever, and has represented the millions of refugees everywhere by showing how far dreams and dedication can take you.

Her time in competition at Tokyo 2020 may have been short, but she has three years to prepare and give it another shot at Paris 2024.