Refugee paddler Amir Rezanejad Hassanjani has said that he wants to “launch” his Canoe Slalom career at the Paris 2024 Olympics and make the people of Germany proud after they helped him to feel at home again.

Rezanejad Hassanjani will be one of 36 athletes that will make up the International Olympic Committee’s Refugee Olympic Team at the Games.

His selection that was announced by the IOC last month was a dream come true for the 24-year-old who fled Iran in 2020 to seek refugee.

“I was flying the day I found out that I would be at the Olympic Games because it’s a dream for every athlete,” said Rezanejad Hassanjani.

“It’s amazing.

“The athletes that will go to the Olympic Games are the toughest in my sport.

“They are going there to make the podium.

“I want to produce my best performance there, be near to them and try to be part of the finals.

“Canoe Slalom is important for the French people and all over Europe.

“I want to enjoy the atmosphere, the ceremony and the races but I also want to use this opportunity to launch my career because the Olympic Games is the biggest event in my sport.

Augsburg five Canoe Slalom paddlers Paris 2024

“My vision is to get to the Olympics in 2028.

“I didn’t paddle for three years and after that I started again.

“I need more experience and more races to close the gap on the top level.”

Rezanejad Hassanjani’s international career began in 2015 as he went on to represent Iran at the 2017 International Canoe Federation Canoe Slalom World Championships.

He took the decision to leave Iran in 2020 before going on a long journey through the mountains which border his native country and Turkey.

After one year in Turkey, Rezanejad Hassanjani moved to Germany where he has settled in Augsburg.

Rezanejad Hassanjani lives a 15-minute bike ride from the Augsburg course that was used for the Munich 1972 Olympics and staged the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships in 1957, 1985, 2003 and 2022.

“Augsburg is my home,” said Rezanejad Hassanjani.

“I feel good here, the club are like my family as they support me through everything.

“When you have nobody in a city, you may feel alone but it is different here.

“The support of the club is motivation for me to progress.”

Rezanejad Hassanjani has been working under the guidance of vastly-experienced German coach Jurgen Koehler.

“I am really happy to train with Jurgen as I can use his experience,” said Rezanejad Hassanjani.

“Jurgen has helped me a lot.

“I can feel this improvement in myself, not just on the water but my mentality as well.”

Amir Rezanejad refugee

This week has seen Rezanejad Hassanjani make his ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup debut in Augsburg where he competed in the men’s C1 and kayak cross.

“This is my home course so I am not satisfied with the way I have performed at the World Cup here,” said Rezanejad Hassanjani.

“After such a long time, I am now in the race atmosphere and that is a different feeling for me.

“It’s my first-ever World Cup so I will go to Prague next week and hope to do better.”

A poster is proudly displayed at the Kanu Schwaben Augsburg featuring images of the club’s five paddlers who will compete at the Paris 2024.

Rezanejad Hassanjani is among those along with reigning Olympic champion Ricarda Funk, two-time Olympic medallist Sideris Tasiadis, Elena Lilik and Noah Hegge.

“I am honoured to have my picture close to them on one board,” said Rezanejad Hassanjani.

“I always see them and try to learn from them. They are like rockets on the water.

“I want to keep progressing until the Olympic Games and make the club and the people of Augsburg and all over Germany proud of me.”

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