Before the break out of the civil war, Ibrahim al-Hussein used to train as a professional swimmer – but his situation was like no other.
The Euphrates River was his pool and he used a suspension bridge as his diving board.
“I used to climb to the top, dive into the water and swim in the river,” he explained.
But this is when the war began.
Sadly fighters broke down the bridge, Ibrahim also lost his leg when a bomb hit him as he was saving a severely injured friend.
Ibrahim’s leg had to be amputated from the mid calf down – shattering his athletic dreams.
In 2014, the 27-year-old athlete, who had previously fled Syria for Turkey, arrived in the Greek island of Samos after dangerously crossing the Aegean Sea in a rubber dinghy.
However, life has taken a positive turn as it was announced on Friday that Ibrahim will be carrying the Olympic flame in Athens as part of the torch relay for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Ibrahim, who uses a prosthetic leg, now lives in Athens and follows a strict training program that included swimming three times a week with ALMA, a Greek NGO for athletes with disabilities, and wheel chair basketball with his team in Maroussi.
“It’s not just game for me, it’s my life.” explained the athlete who worked a 10-hour night shift at a cafe.
To get into the pool, Ibrahim has to remove his leg and hop to the starting block, but this has not held him back.
“I saw a strong athlete, nothing more,” his coach, Eleni Kokkinou, told UNHCR. “All that’s on his mind is, ‘training, training, training.’ His target was to catch up to his personal best time in the 50-meter freestyle.”
The Syrian can now swim 50 meters freestyle in about 28 seconds, just three seconds short of his timing before he lost his leg.
Ibrahim will run with the flame, which was lit April 21st in a ceremony at Olympia, Greece, through Eleonas, a temporary camp site in Athens that hosts 1500 refugees.
“I am carrying the flame for myself, but also for Syrians, for refugees everywhere, for Greece, for sports, for my swimming and basketball teams,” Ibrahim says. “My goal is to never give up. But to go on, to always go forward. And that I can achieve through sports.”