A New Zealand refugee is one step closer to his dream of becoming an Olympian.
Swimmer Eyad Masoud has been awarded an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Refugee Athlete Support Scholarship.
The scholarship will provide funding for Masoud to train and attend elite competitions.
“I was so happy when I got the email and I haven’t stopped smiling since,” said Masoud.
As a recipient of the scholarship 24-year-old Masoud will also be one of the athletes to be considered for selection to the Olympic Refugee Team for Tokyo 2020.
The IOC will release its selection criteria for the Olympic Refugee Team in early 2020 with its Executive Board in charge of athlete selection to the team. Receiving a scholarship does not guarantee a place in the team.
Above: Athlete Eyad Masoud
The Olympic Refugee Team debuted at the Rio 2016 Games, with 10 athletes displaced from their home nations competing under the Olympic flag.
“Being eligible for the Olympic Refugee Team is huge for me, I’ve dreamed of competing at the Olympics since I arrived in New Zealand so to be a step closer to that is pretty special.”
Masoud was born in Syria where he learnt to swim at a young age. His family moved between Syria and Saudi Arabia until Syria became too dangerous. Their home has since been destroyed by bombs.
Masoud was granted refugee status and moved to New Zealand in late 2017. As well as being a competitive swimmer Masoud studies engineering and works as a junior swim coach in Auckland.
“I’ve been fighting to spread the message that no matter what your circumstances are, if you work hard you can still achieve your dreams.
“Getting this scholarship has given me even more motivation and the funding will allow me to train even harder."
New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO Kereyn Smith says Masoud is a worthy recipient of the refugee scholarship.
“Eyad has been through a lot in his life so we’re extremely pleased that he's getting a helping hand as he works towards his goals,” said Smith.
Masoud’s strongest event is the 50m freestyle.
The Tokyo Olympic Games will be held July 24th-August 9th, 2020.