Sanda Aldass: Syrian Judoka joins Refugee Olympic Team

Meet Sanda Aldass: the Syrian Judoka going for gold in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
3 min read
Sanda Aldass fled her homeland, Syria, in 2015 as the war ravaged the country, seeking refuge in Holland where she and her family now live. Despite the adversities, this has not stopped her following her dreams to take part in the Olympic Games.
Sanda Aldass [Getty Images]

Sanda Aldass will compete in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics taking place from the 23rd of July until the 8th of August, as part of the multinational Refugee Olympic Team in which 29 athletes will take part.

The Judoka (Judo player), born in Syria, who sought asylum in Holland six years ago, expressed her determination to the sport to maintain her strength - both physically and mentally -  during the difficult move from Syria to Europe.

During an interview for the official Olympics website last year, Aldass says that if she had “sat in Syria doing nothing she would have gone mad”.

Today, living in Amsterdam with her husband and three children, she is going for gold in the Olympic games with the Refugee Olympic Team.

Sport eases transition to Europe

In 2015, Aldass made the hard decision to leave her home and family in Damascus and flee war-torn Syria for refuge in Holland, leaving behind her coach, husband and their young son.

On arrival in Holland, Aldass spent nine months in a refugee camp, with the first six of those months without her family. She explains how challenging this time was:

“I was running and training which kept me busy and positive. I knew my family would join me in the end and that we would have a good and safe place to live. Knowing that kept me calm.”

Soon after the family were reunited and had moved to the Dutch capital, Aldass had to give up her Judo training once more, having become pregnant with her second child.  With another child on the way and the need for an extra income, her husband sought recognition for his training qualifications. 

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Since then, Aldass and her husband have had their third child, along with her husbands training credentials being successfully recognised in Holland. 

A dream come true - going to the Olympics

Aldass says: “My children say to me - Mum, you have to go to the Olympics. This was the dream for every member of the family, it was just a dream, and now it will happen!”.

The International Judo Federation invited the couple to join the programme for refugee athletes in 2019, in which Aldass competed and took part in the Grand Slam events, and now she is looking forward to giving it her all in the Olympic Games.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.

This article is part of The New Arab's special coverage of the Tokyo Olympics. Click here to read the whole series.