Imagen
Ibrahim Al Hussein

Ibrahim Al Hussein

Swimming

Biography

Impairment information

Type of Impairment
Limb deficiency
Origin of Impairment
Acquired
Classification
S9, SB8, SM9

Further personal information

Residence
Athens, GRE
Languages
Arabic, Greek

Sport specific information

When and where did you begin this sport?
He began swimming at age five in the Euphrates river in Dayr az Zawr, Syrian Arab Republic.
Why this sport?
His father, who was a swimming coach, got him involved in the sport. He initially stopped swimming after his accident but returned to the sport as he tried to rebuild his life. "I saw it as a way out of my depression. When I am training, I stop thinking that I have an impairment and it feels like before. It is difficult to go from able-bodied to Para swimming, but no matter what happens in your life, you need to keep doing the things you love."
Club / Team
Protoporoi: Greece
Name of coach
Alexandros Tsoltos [personal], GRE, from 2017
Training Regime
He swims seven days a week.

International debut

Year
2016

General interest

Hobbies
Wheelchair basketball, handicrafts. (Athlete, 01 Sep 2019)
Memorable sporting achievement
Competing at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. (Athlete, 01 Sep 2019)
Most influential person in career
His father, and coach Alexandros Tsoltos. (Athlete, 01 Sep 2019)
Hero / Idol
US swimmer Michael Phelps. (Athlete, 05 Dec 2017)
Injuries
Prior to 2012 he fell off a building while working and needed pins in his left ankle. (Athlete, 05 Sep 2016)
Sporting philosophy / motto
“I want every refugee to have opportunities in sport. I cannot imagine my life without sport. I can stop eating but I cannot stop having sport in my life. It is what keeps me going.” (paralympic.org, 29 Nov 2016)
Awards and honours
He received the 2016 Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award from the United States Sports Academy. The honour is given to the athlete showing courage and dedication to their sport in the face of incredible odds. (aroundtherings.com, 03 Jul 2017)

He was presented with the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The honour is presented to the athlete who has performed at an outstanding level and overcome adversity. (swimmingworldmagazine.com, 15 Sep 2016)

He was flag bearer for the Independent Paralympic Athletes at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. (myinfo.rio2016.com, 07 Sep 2016)

He carried the Olympic torch through a refugee camp in Athens, Greece, during the torch relay ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. (reuters.com, 26 Apr 2016)
Other sports
He has played wheelchair basketball for a club in Maroussi, Greece. (tracks.unhcr.org, 22 Apr 2016)
Famous relatives
His father has coached swimming and judo in the Syrian Arab Republic. (myinfo.rio2016.com, 07 Sep 2016)
Ambitions
To win a medal at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. (paralympic.org, 27 Aug 2018)
Impairment
In the Syrian Arab Republic in 2012, he was trying to help a friend who had been shot by a sniper when he was hit by the blast of another bomb. His right leg had to be amputated below the knee. (Athlete, 05 Sep 2016; rio2016.com, 22 Apr 2016)
Other information
LOSING HIS LEG
In 2012 he lost his right leg while attempting to help a friend who had been shot by a sniper in the Syrian Arab Republic. "He [my friend] fell to the ground and was crying for help. I knew if I went to help him, I could get shot as well. But I decided I had to help because I knew I would have never been able to forgive myself watching him die in the middle of the street. We were walking towards an intersection when a tank shell exploded in front of us. Every single one of us lost something. I lost my right leg, and I also needed metal plates in my left leg, my nose, and my left eye socket. One of my friends lost a leg, one of them his right hand, everybody was a casualty. After the accident there was a period when I was very down but after that I realised that I cannot continue like this. I told myself that I don't want to stop doing what I was doing before the accident. I was a little bit depressed and sad about losing my leg, but my friend survived and now has three children. He is happy right now and I can live because of that." (paralympic.org, 22 Jan 2020; paralympic.org, 02 May 2021)

MOVE TO GREECE
He grew up in the Syrian Arab Republic with 13 siblings. In 2014 he fled the war in his birth country, travelling first to Turkey before settling in Greece where he was granted asylum. "It was very difficult in the beginning in Greece because I didn't speak the language and I had nobody but eventually I found a doctor in Athens who helped me. He is like a brother to me. The leg would normally cost 12,000 Euros but he made it, did not charge me for it and any maintenance is free. After that I said, 'This is the place where I would like to live'. I'm happy in Greece. I even learned to speak Greek because I love the country and the people so much." (paralympic.org, 22 Jan 2020; reuters.com, 26 Apr 2016; tracks.unhcr.org, 22 Apr 2016)

FORTUNATE ENCOUNTER
While living in Turkey he was able to receive treatment for his leg, but the quality of the prosthetic he was given was poor, and it would often break. "I used to walk with a tool box in my backpack at all times. I'd sit on the street and fix it just to keep going." After moving on to Greece, a chance encounter changed his fortunes. "By luck, I met a Syrian expat who was very nice. He asked me about my story. I told him I was an athlete and was injured in the war in Syria and had to flee." The Syrian man had a Greek friend who had a similar impairment and used a prosthetic leg, and presented Al Hussein to the friend, who in turn introduced Al Hussein to his doctor. The doctor, Angelos Chronopoulos, is a specialist who fits prosthetic limbs. "That doctor is now like a brother to me. The leg would normally cost 12,000 Euros but he made it, paid for it out of his own pocket and provided maintenance for free." With his new leg, he was able to walk properly and find a job cleaning washrooms at a bus station, which enabled him to rent a small apartment. Eventually, he was able to return to sport. "Going back into sport wasn't easy. It was a big challenge. But if you have a disability or whatever else you face, nothing should stop you from doing what you love." (paralympic.org, 02 May 2021)

Results

Unit Date Rank
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's 100 m Freestyle S9 Heat 1 2016-09-12 7
Men's 50 m Freestyle S9 Heat 1 2016-09-13 6
Mexico City 2017 World Para Swimming Championships (Mexico City, Mexico)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's 100 m Backstroke S9 Heat 1 2017-12-02 9999
Men's 100 m Freestyle S9 Heat 2 2017-12-04 11
Men's 50 m Freestyle S9 Heat 2 2017-12-07 12