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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Palestine's Olympic Team



The Palestinian Olympic Committee has sent a team to compete at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. The Palestinian delegation consists of two runners and two swimmers.[1] [2]

Palestinian Athletes Prepare for Beijing Olympics

03 June 2008

Many of the athletes who will take take part in the upcoming Summer Olympic Games have had to overcome challenges to qualify for their teams before going to Beijing. But few have overcome such tremendous obstacles as the four athletes who will make up the team representing the Palestinian territories. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from the West Bank city of Jericho.

Palestinian Olympic Team in training
Palestinian Olympic Team in training
It's a long way to Beijing from this hot dusty field in Jericho but these runners have been training for years to get there.

These two have made it: Nader Masri and Ghadeer Ghuruf will be running for Palestine this year. Nader says his dreams have come true.

Nader has been in training a long while. "I've been training for 10 years hoping to go to the Olympics and now my dream is coming true," Nader said.

This rundown field and dilapidated gym are where the Palestinian runners train. Palestinians have been sending athletes to the Olympics since the 1996 games in Atlanta, but their training facilities are anything but Olympic class.

Nader Masri
Nader Masri
For Nader the rundown track in Jericho is a vast improvement. Until recently, he was stuck in the Gaza Strip living in the Beit Hanoun refugee camp, where a training run could attract the attention of Israeli troops, who target the camp because Palestinian militants use it to fire rockets at Israel. Gaza is under a strict Israeli blockade. Israeli journalists and human rights activists had to fight for months to get permission for Nader to leave to go to Jericho, and now to Beijing.

Nader says the problems in Gaza have hurt him as an athlete, but he says all of his struggles will be worth it once he gets to compete in the 5,000 meter race in Beijing.

"It has certainly impacted my capabilities as a runner but my focus is on the Olympic games. I have one aim and I am going to achieve it," he said.

Ghadeer Ghuruf
Ghadeer Ghuruf
Nader's teammate Ghadeer will be one of the youngest athletes competing in Beijing. Only 17 years old, she has been training hard in the 100 and 200 meter events for seven years for this moment.

"I am going to represent Palestine, a country that is considered by many to be an irrelevant place," Ghadeer said. "It is not irrelevant. It has people like us - educated people. It has concerned and educated people and I am going to prove that to them at the Olympic games."

Nader and Ghadeer say they don't expect to win any medals in Beijing. Just being there will be enough - and knowing that the eyes of the world will see Palestinian athletes competing on a global stage.

Palestinian Olympic team face training hurdles

AM - Saturday, 7 June , 2008 08:19:00

Reporter: Ben Knight

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Olympics are just two months away and international teams are beginning to leave for China to prepare for the Games.

The Palestinian Olympic team, about to head off, is made up of two runners, two swimmers, and their coaches. Warming up for the Games has been particularly tough because the best training facilities are often on the other side of Israeli checkpoints.

Middle East correspondent, Ben Knight, reports.

BEN KNIGHT: Every day, Hamse Abdouh trains for the Olympics. Most days, he does it here at the YMCA pool in Arab East Jerusalem. But it's not much of a pool.

There aren't even proper diving blocks here, this is an 18 metre pool and in fact as I'm speaking to you now, he's just finished his first lap. He only gets six strokes before he reaches the end of the pool. There is a 50 metre pool, an Olympic-sized pool in Jerusalem but it's too expensive for him to use on a regular basis so he's just finished another lap. This is where he trains.

Each week, he swims thousands of laps in here.

BEN KNIGHT: How does it feel when you do get into a 50 metre pool, and you can't see the end?

HAMSE ABDOUH (translated): I'm scared. I feel absolute panic. How can I finish such a distance?

BEN KNIGHT: Of course, he does finish it. His best time for the 100 metres butterfly is 10 seconds off the world record. To put it politely, that means his chances of winning a medal are slim, but he knows that.

HAMSE ABDOUH (translated): it's a difficult record to achieve. I have to train morning and night.

BEN KNIGHT: It was in Melbourne last year, at the World Championships, when Hamse Abdouh found out he'd made the Olympic team.

He lives in East Jerusalem, so he can at least get to a pool every day. But the other member of the Palestinian swimming team is Zakia Nassar, who lives and studies in the West Bank and can only train on weekends when she goes home to Bethlehem.

Their coach is Ibrahim Tawil.

IBRAHIM TAWIL: We asked the Israeli authority to issue a permission for her, but unfortunately we didn't get it until this time.

BEN KNIGHT: Hamse Abdouh and his three teammates are going to the games with the help of Olympic Solidarity, a movement that helps poorer nations to train and send their athletes.

But even though the Olympic ideal of friendship between nations through sport is what got Hamse Abdouh his ticket to Beijing, it apparently doesn't apply here in Jerusalem. He refuses to compete against Israelis here.

HAMSE ABDOUH (translated): There are martyrs every day. There are problems every day. It's impossible to interact normally with Israelis.

BEN KNIGHT: Yet it's really only at major sporting events like the Olympics that something called Palestine actually exists.

That idea of building goodwill through sport hasn't taken root with Hamse Abdouh yet. For he and his coach, it's the chance to walk into the stadium at Beijing, carrying a sign that says Palestine and marching behind a Palestinian flag that counts.

Ibrahim Tawil remembers the feeling from Athens.

IBRAHIM TAWIL: When Palestine get into the stadium, and the 75 people that were there they were all the time shouting “Palestine! Palestine!” I think this was our medal. This was the real medal for Palestine.

It is a feeling that I will never forget, I felt that people are, you know, handing me all the way in the stadium.

BEN KNIGHT: This is Ben Knight in Jerusalem reporting for Saturday AM.

For Palestinian swimmers, it´s a chance to swim (THE GLOBE AND MAIL) ORLY HALPERN JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 07/07/08)
There´s no Olympic-sized pool in the territories and no training budget to speak of, but two athletes are on their way to the Games

JERUSALEM -- Palestinian swim coach Ibrahim Tawil felt bittersweet relief when he parted from his two Olympic athletes, who were on their way to Beijing. Although he is unable to be with them now, at least, he said, they will have regular access to something he struggled and failed to provide them: a pool. (read further>>>>>>>>)

JERUSALEM -- Palestinian swim coach Ibrahim Tawil felt bittersweet relief when he parted from his two Olympic athletes, who were on their way to Beijing. Although he is unable to be with them now, at least, he said, they will have regular access to something he struggled and failed to provide them: a pool. (read further>>>>>>>>)

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