Refugee paddler Saman Soltani has outlined her career ambitions to race in her 40s and compete at four Olympic Games as she prepares for her first in Paris later this month. 

Getting to the startline in the French capital has taken a courageous effort from 28-year-old Soltani who fled Iran to seek refuge in Austria and the opportunity to continue her dream. 

With the great support of Uwe Schlokat, Canoeing Austria and the International Canoe Federation, Soltani will represent the International Olympic Committee’s Refugee Olympic Team at the Games. 

Before this year, Soltani’s only taste of international competition came at continental level having won silver at the 2018 Canoe Sprint Junior and Under 23 Asian Championships. 

She has now competed at two ICF Canoe Sprint World Cups where she used the opportunity to pick the brains of the best paddlers on the planet. 

“I talked with so many of them and learnt so much,” said Soltani. 

“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 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.” 

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Soltani said she gained a huge amount from being part of the ICF’s global development camp during the World Cups in Szeged and Poznan. 

“Training was one part but I learnt so much from the African paddlers as they are full of love,” said Soltani.  

“When you understand the conditions that they are train in and they still follow their dreams, it is so impressive.  

“I got so much love from them and I am so happy to get to know these people.  

“We were like a family in the end.  

“When we said goodbye, all of us were crying. It was very emotional.  

“It was very hard even though we knew we would see each other in Paris.” 

Soltani does not want to waste a moment as she steps up her training programme in the build-up to the Games. 

Leaving home at 6am and returning at 8pm has become the new norm for Soltani in her pursuit to improve her mental and physical strength. 

“I try to get better and better and I understand even more now that there really is no limit to the human ability,” said Soltani. 

“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.” 



Soltani also does not want Paris 2024 to be her last Olympic Games and is confident she has a long career ahead of her after getting inspired by other paddlers. 

“Szeged was my first international race and my first World Cup ever,” said Soltani. 

“The highest level I had competed at in the past was the U23 Asian Championships in 2018.  

“I am really happy as I got to final D and I finished 36 which was a great achievement for me but there is so much to improve.  

“It’s just the start.  

“I want to participate until the age of 40 so it means three more Olympics.  

Anja Osterman came to competition nine months after giving birth, it’s so impressive. 

“There is also a Slovakian paddler who is 42 years old and she made the final A 200. 

“Her two kids were there and were cheering for her. 

“They were running with her in the race so it was so impressive.  

“It shows that age and having kids aren’t stopping them and they are continuing to follow their dreams.” 

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