After years of campaigning, Iranian refugee Saeid Fazloula finally received clearance this week to join the Refugee Olympic Team. The German-based paddler is one step closer to competing at Tokyo 2020. 

The kayaker Saeid Fazloula came to Germany as a refugee via the Balkan route in 2015. The native Iranian found his new, sporty home with the Rheinbrüder Karlsruhe in the region. Already in 2016 he was on the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) list for a short time and wanted to start in Rio, but he suspects political clusters may have prevented this. 

Even for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, if the scheduled date had stayed, the kayaker would not have received permission. Only through the tireless efforts of Saeid himself, but also from many supporters, starting with his advocate and father figure Detlef Hofmann, his association the Rheinbrüder Karlsruhe with the coaches Ralf Straub and Maren Knebel, through the Baden-Württemberg and the German Canoe Association, the German Olympic Sports Confederation, Athleten Deutschland eV, through the athletes' spokesman Max Hartung, and to the Minister of Education, Dr. Susanne Eisenmann.

They all raised their voices and made it clear that the 28-year-old canoe racer, a role model for successful community integration, must be given a chance to join the refugee team. The investigative journalist Peter Wozny, who, with his research and reports, set the ball rolling for international associations in particular, certainly played a major role in the admission.

In order to enable Fazloula, who was already a three-time Asian runner-up under the flag of Iran, to be accepted into the RED, the International Canoe Federation had to change its regulations, as there were no rules at all on how athletes who have had to leave their country for political or religious reasons could participate in events. 

After this accomplished milestone, in which the DKV President Thomas Konietzko in particular campaigned for the reorganisation of the right to start for refugees, the DOSB was then able to apply for admission to the refugee grant. On Tuesday evening Saeid received the official message from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that he was accepted into the team of the “IOC Refugee Athletes Scholarship Holders”.

"I feel relieved. It's been a long, hard road. So many people fought with and for me. I would like to thank you all today, ” the 28-year-old athlete said. 

His mentor, Detlef Hofmann, was also overjoyed.

"That does not yet mean one hundred percent certainty that Saeid will also be there in Tokyo, because the IOC will probably not make a final decision until June," Hofmann said.

But with the scholarship he is now one of the athletes who can be nominated by the IOC based on sporting criteria. This nomination was planned for 2020 on June 20, World Refugee Day. In 2021, this symbolic day will finally bring certainty for Saeid Fazloula and his dream of being able to start at the Olympic Games. 

Until then, the kayaker wants to subordinate everything to his main goal.

Martina Tirolf


Canoe Sprint
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