Face of Flanders: Rami Amis


Rami Anis may have returned from Brazil without any medals , but the Syrian swimmer has won some of the most heartfelt applause in the Rio Olympics

A dream come true

Rami Anis came in sixth in his 100m freestyle heat, but won some of the most heartfelt applause in the Rio Olympics. Anis is a 25-year-old refugee from Aleppo in Syria, who has been based in Eeklo, East Flanders, since fleeing the war and destruction in his home country in 2011.

As part of the first ever Refugee Team currently competing in Rio, he carried the Olympic flag for his squad at the opening ceremony. “When I was a child, I would dream about taking part in the Olympics and about competing under my country’s flag,” he said. “It’s a wonderful feeling. I don’t want to wake up from this dream.”

His incredible story includes a ride on an inflatable dinghy from Turkey to the Greek island of Samos with 40 others when the motor broke. When he finally settled in Eeklo, he began training nine times a week at the Royal Ghent Swimming Club under the watchful eye of former Olympic swimmer Carine Verbauwen. He was granted asylum last year.

Anis is one of 10 athletes in the Refugee Olympic Team, who hail from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, some of the most troubled parts of the world. He finished 56th out of 59 swimmers in the freestyle heats, but recorded a personal best of 54.25 seconds.

He also swam in the butterfly heats, coming in 40th out of 43. But he was given a standing ovation by the crowd at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium. “I want to send the best possible image of refugees, of Syrians, of everyone who suffers injustice in the world,” he said. “I want to tell them not to give up, to keep going.”

Photo: Kyodo/MAXPPP