Two years ago, Eid Aljazairili almost drowned when his boat capsized in the Mediterranean as he fled his home country of Syria. The 24-year-old, from Damascus, had been studying to become an accountant when the conflict forced him to leave. After being granted asylum in UK 18 months ago, Eid chose to pursue a very different path: swimming.
Inspired by video clips of Olympic champion Michael Phelps, Eid made the decision to test his abilities in the pool—despite not being able to swim.
Now, after only a year and a half of training, Eid has set his sights on qualifying for next year’s Olympics as part of the refugee team.
Eid’s rapid progress suggests the goal may be more than a pipe dream. “Progression, at Eid’s age, has been remarkable,” his coach, Dan Bullock, told Channel 4 News.
“Which is why initially….I didn’t really believe that he had taught himself to swim and was doing three to four kilometres within a few months. That is quite exceptional” he added.
Eid’s performance in the water is not the only thing defying expectations. Earlier this year, Eid was living in a hostel with only £5 to spend per day. Despite this hardship, he was still regularly training, his motivation spurred in part by a desire to dispel misconceptions about refugees.
“I will do anything to get there [the Olympics], to achieve the dream. Because all the people, they are saying ‘you’re a refugee, you will never get there, it’s impossible, just go and sit at home’, but no, man!”
While swimming serves as Eid’s outlet from the struggles of his new life in an unfamiliar country, it does little to distract from his greatest worry: his family are still in Syria.
“When you achieve something with swimming, or your study, or anything; when you get back home, there isn’t the same feeling when you are telling that to your mother.”
Whether or not Eid’s family end up joining him in the UK, they may be able to watch him compete for the refugee team at next year’s Olympics if he continues to train with this level of determination.