Four paddlers will compete as refugee athletes at the Paris 2024 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee has announced today. 

Fernando Dayan Jorge Enriquez, Saman Soltani, Saeid Fazloula and Amir Rezanejad Hassanjani have been named as part of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team for the Games. 

Reigning Olympic champion Jorge will compete in Canoe Sprint along with Soltani and Fazloula, while Rezanejad will participate in Canoe Slalom. 

IOC President Thomas Bach announced their names when revealing the 36-strong team during a special online ceremony live streamed from Olympic House in Lausanne, Switzerland today. 

They will represent the more than 100 million displaced people around the world. 

The team, composed of 36 athletes from 11 countries and 12 sports, was approved by the IOC Executive Board and was based on a number of criteria, including sporting performance and their refugee status as verified by UNHCR and the UN Refugee Agency. 

Fernando Dayan JORGE ENRIQUEZ Paris 2024 Olympic Refugee Olympic Team Canoe Kayak Sprint

“We welcome all of you with open arms,” said Mr Bach.  

“You are an enrichment to our Olympic Community, and to our societies.  

“With your participation in the Olympic Games, you will demonstrate the human potential of resilience and excellence.  

“This will send a message of hope to the more than 100 million displaced people around the world.” 

The announcement means Jorge will have the chance to win a second Olympic title. 

Jorge made history at Tokyo 2020, winning Cuba’s first-ever Olympic gold in Canoe Sprint courtesy of his triumph in the men’s C2 1000 alongside Serguey Torres. 

In 2022, Jorge left Cuba and settled in Mexico where he worked and trained simultaneously under difficult conditions.

Jorge is now situated in Florida in the United States and trains daily in a canal near his home with the support of his coach, Alain. 

Saeid Fazloula Paris 2024 Olympic Refugee Olympic Team Canoe Kayak Sprint

Fazloula returns to the IOC Refugee Olympic Team for another Games after competing in the men’s K1 1000 at Tokyo 2020. 

The 31-year-old is a native Iranian and has been living in Germany since 2015 when he fled his home country to seek refuge. 

“It’s amazing to hear that I am officially part of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team for Paris 2024,” said Fazloula. 

“My son and wife are by my side so this is beautiful news for all of us. 

“I hope I can get two tickets for them so they can enjoy the races in Paris and we can be all together there. 

“It’s fantastic to have my family with me now.” 

Soltani is another Iranian native who will race as a refugee athlete in Canoe Sprint after moving to Austria where she is receiving support. 

Saman Soltani Paris 2024 Olympic Refugee Olympic Team Canoe Kayak Sprint

Since competing in Austria, Soltani won gold in the K1 1000 and silver in the K1 500 and K1 200 at last year’s National Championships.  

Soltani said she was in tears and completely overjoyed when she received the news. 

“You can hear from my voice that I am crying and so shocked but unfortunately you didn’t see my reaction in the ceremony because I had internet problems and there was a two-second delay,” said Soltani. 

“I have woken up every morning with this dream.  

“One of my biggest dreams has now come true so I am very happy. 

“I will try to do my best and hopefully motivate other women like me. 

“You can never give up, you try hard and one day it will pay off. 

“For me, that’s today. 

“I have been training really hard but now I have to train twice as hard, so I am super motivated.” 

Amir Rezanejad Paris 2024 Olympic Refugee Olympic Team Canoe Kayak Slalom

Rezanejad started competing for Iran in 2015, and even represented his country at the 2017 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships. 

He arrived in Germany in 2021 and is training with a canoe club in Augsburg which has provided him with the support and the motivation to keep going. 

Last year, Rezanejad competed at the ICF Junior and U23 Canoe Slalom World Championships and the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships. 

“I can’t believe it,” said Rezanejad. 

“I am super excited because over the past four years so many things have happened to me to come to Germany, learn the language and find places to study and work. 

“It is a real honour to be in the team for the Olympic Games in Paris. 

“I am so thankful to everyone who has helped me.” 

Related links

Canoe Sprint
Canoe Slalom