Four paddlers who fled their native countries to seek refuge and a chance to pursue their canoeing careers are poised to make their dreams come true in Paris next month.

Saeid Fazloula. Fernando Dayan Jorge Enriquez, Saman Soltani and Amir Rezanejad Hassanjani will form part of the International Olympic Committee’s Refugee Olympic Team at Paris 2024.

They will be among the 36 athletes competing for the Refugee Olympic Team which will represent more than 120 million displaced people around the world.

Additional quotas have allowed Fazloula, Jorge and Soltani to line-up in the Canoe Sprint competition and Rezanejad to participate in Canoe Slalom at the Games.

ICF canoe sprint Olympic refugee paddlers, coaches, and ICF president gather in Szeged

For Jorge, his selection has offered him an opportunity to go for gold again after winning Cuba’s first-ever Olympic title in Canoe Sprint alongside Serguey Torres in the men’s C2 1000 before fleeing his home country.

Fazloula is also returning for one final Games after being part of the Refugee Olympic Team at Tokyo 2020, while Soltani and Rezanejad are poised to make their Olympic debuts in Paris.

To mark World Refugee Day, the ICF caught up with Fazloula, Jorge, Soltani and Rezanejad to find out how preparations are going for the Olympic Games.

Saeid Fazloula
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“My preparations are going really well.

“I’m now on my way to Italy to compete in the Auronzo International Canoe Sprint event and I’m feeling good at this stage.

“Hopefully my parents will join me next month. We will see as I’m bringing them from Iran to Germany which will be a happy end for me.

“We have just 40 days to go so I need to get faster and make sure everything is okay for the Olympics.

“After Italy, I will go back to Germany for one week at home. I will go to another training camp and then Paris.

“I am really excited for the opening ceremony. This is also an important thing for me.

“This is the last Games for me.

“I will give everything in my last year and my final race.

“After Paris, we are going directly to the German Championships and then that will be everything done.

“I more excited than nervous.

“In Tokyo it was a different situation as there was coronavirus and my preparation was not good.

“I can’t remember anything from Tokyo but that’s good as I will continue to Paris and give my best.”

Click here to read more about Fazloula’s story

Fernando Dayan Jorge Enriquez

Fernando Dayan Jorge Enriquez Szeged 2024

“I feel very good and very excited to compete again after several years out of competition.

“The preparation has been very good, but there are still details to continue working on it.

“I am very grateful to the Refugee Olympic Team for giving me this opportunity to compete in the Games.

“Last year I was the United States national champion and the Florida state champion, I obtained a silver medal at the Pan American Olympic qualifier and a bronze medal in the ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup in Szeged.

“They were very good performances for me – performances that I have worked very hard for and I feel happy about that.

“There was no possibility for me to compete in Paris 2024 until I entered the Refugee Olympic Team programme with only months left to the Games.

“It was news that I couldn't believe. Before the news I was still training but not for the Olympic Games.

“I told my family and coach and everyone was very happy.

“That is why for me they are very important because I did not expect to compete in Paris 2024.

“My expectations are reserved.

“I find myself training well and with a lot of motivation to give a good performance in my career.”

Click here to read more about Jorge’s story

Saman Soltani

Saman Soltani Lisa Carrington Poznan

“I am training so much than before, like three to four times a day but really intense. I leave home at 6am to go training, come back at 8pm and then I just eat and sleep. Everyday is like this now.

“The Olympics for me is being a better person every day and in every aspect so mentally and physically. I try to get better and better and I understand even more now that there really is no limit to the human ability.

“At the ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup in Poznan, I just missed out by one second to get into the Final A of the K1 1000 so it was so close.

“I was saying to my family that one or two years ago I watched all these athletes on Instagram, followed them to see what they are doing and try to learn from them. Now I have raced against them in the same heat.

“I experienced so much in the ICF development camp in Szeged and Poznan as I trained with the best athletes in the world.

“I talked with so many of them and learned so much. I spoke with Alyce Wood who is really nice. I also talked with Lisa Carrington about technique and balance, and with Amiee Fisher, Fernando Pimenta and Agustin Vernice - so many athletes. They are all really nice.

“I would love to be in my best version ever at the Olympics.

“I want to finish the race and feel no regret. I want to say that I did my all and accept my body and mind.”

Click here to read more about Soltani’s story

Amir Rezanejad Hassanjani

Amir Rezanejad Hassanjani 2024 canoe slalom Augsburg refugee

“I will be in Paris for two separate weeks before the Olympics. I will have one week in Paris starting today and I am really excited to see the stadium in Paris because it’s a great course and there is a really big stand for people to watch.

“I want to feel this situation and atmosphere before the Olympics.

“I think I can improve after competing at the ICF Canoe Slalom World Cups in Prague and Augsburg.

“For the first time I am satisfied from my training point of view but not by my result. I will try to bring it all together and have a good result in Paris.

“It was a really important experience competing at World Cups as I can learn from those and bring it together for the Olympics.

“Competing at the Olympic is my childhood dream. When I saw canoe slalom and started to think about whitewater, I dreamed about the Olympics and now I am one of the people that will start in the Games so I am really excited.

“I see the Olympic Games as a launch for me as it is really important to show your best and take your opportunity.

“I want to see myself in a final in Paris and then we will see what happens.”

“I want to build from it and train over the next four years for the next Olympic Games.”

Click here to read more about Rezanejad’s story

Related links

Canoe Sprint
Canoe Slalom