Aram Mahmoud: How my Tokyo 2020 experience has motivated me to work even harder

Mahmoud reflects on exit from men's singles badminton tournament as runner Rose Nathike looks forward to making her second Olympic appearance.

IOC Refugee Olympic Team athlete Aram Mahmoud realised his dream of becoming an Olympian at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

The Syrian refugee, who is based in the Netherlands, cherished the opportunity to play against some of the best badminton players in the world.

“I love badminton more than before because I know what I need and I know what I can do if I work more.” – Aram Mahmoud to Olympic.com

Mahmoud, ranked 172 in the world, made his Olympic debut against Indonesia's world number seven Jonatan Christie and played his second group stage match against Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew.

The 24-year-old lost both his matches in straight games, but feels he has gained invaluable experience by playing against such high-calibre opponents.

“It's very good that I could see or feel the pressure from the top players. I know now I have to work harder and harder to be at that little level and to be able to challenge them” he added.

Being at the Games has also helped him identify areas that he needs to improve on.

“My first lesson is that it doesn't matter how big the tournament is, I have to stay focussed.”

“In practice I have no pressure and I feel free. But here, I [felt] like I was squeezing myself. And I'm not giving myself the space to give everything” he added.

But with the benefit of his maiden Games under his belt, Mahmoud is in a much better position to understand how much he has to put in to get to where he wants.

“It doesn’t matter how hard I worked before, it wasn’t enough. So I hope I need to work harder than I have.”

But overall, Mahmoud is happy with his outing in Japan, “I think I showed people that I could do something.”

“To all the people around the world, thanks for all the support. To my family in Syria, much love and I hope they are proud of me now.” - Aram Mahmoud to Olympics.com

Mahmoud is now looking to continue training in badminton but will aim to devote more time in the immediate future to completing his studies.

“Now I have to give space for my school, my education. I will also play tournaments, I will play competitions and I will practice also. But I will give more time for school”

With the IOC Refugee Olympic Team confirmed for Paris 2024, Mahmoud can continue to benefit from the IOC Refugee Athlete Scholarship programme and continue to develop as an athlete.

Refugee Olympic Team MPC Press Conference

Rose Nathike is one athlete making her second Games appearance as part of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team.

The South Sudanese refugee was the flagbearer at Rio 2016 and will be competing once again in the 800m in Tokyo.

The team was the second group of athletes to walk into the stadium for the Opening Ceremony, and the 28-year-old recalls how special that moment was for her.

Nathike said, “When we were marching to the stadium, the whole world, the people who are within the stadium were cheering for team refugees.

"They clap for us and we are so happy because people cheer for us."

Yiech Pur Biel ran the men's 800m for the first IOC Refugee Olympic Team and is an athlete representative of the team this time round in Tokyo.

Another South Sudanese refugee and now a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, Biel noted that he had seen great improvement in the initiative which aims to use sport as a tool for the vulnerable population.

He said, "In 2016 we only had nine athletes competing at the Olympics, but now we have 29 athletes competing. So it’s a good honour for the team to be increased.

"Our target is to show the world that it's not about competing. We can do anything and we can even get a medal." - IOC Refugee Olympic Team Athlete Representative Yiech Pur Biel

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