PC Olympics Special: Ahmad Abughaush – Taekwondo Champ with Palestinian Roots

Palestinian Ahmed Abugaush represented Jordan, winning gold in Rio. (Photo: via Youtube)

By Hawa Monier

Taekwondo fighter, Ahmad Abughaush, has made Jordanian history at the Rio 2016 Olympics, winning a gold medal – Jordan’s first-ever Olympic medal since it joined the games in 1980. However, this champ’s history hails back to Palestine.

Placing first in the 68-kilogram category, he is also the first Taekwondo athlete in the Arab world to win gold, and only the third to win any medal.

The history of this young athlete has caused much intrigue – with his hailing from Palestine, and Israel even claiming rights over his heritage. However, the legacy of this champion is a simple, Palestinian one of dispossession and Israeli oppression.

Ahmad Abughaush was born in Amman, Jordan. His father is of Palestinian descent, his grandparents having been relocated from the town of Abu Ghosh to Jordan decades ago.

Abughaush started Taekwondo at a local training center in Amman, his skills qualifying him for inclusion in the national team. In 2010, he participated in the Taekwondo World Championship for juniors that was held in Sharm el-Sheikh, where he was the only Arab athlete to achieve a gold medal. He participated in a number of championships and was given the best Jordanian athlete award by the Jordan Olympic Committee.

Abugaush took a year off in 2013 after he had suffered a ruptured ligament, but soon returned to training and won gold medals in a number of international championships in 2014.

The 20-year-old who is the youngest competitor in his division in Rio, qualified to the final late Thursday after beating Spain’s 2012 London gold medalist, Joel Gonzalez 12-7.

During his progress in the games, Abu Ghoush beat world champion Daehoon Lee, according to the Rio Olympics’ official website. Earlier he beat the South Korean 11-8 after beating Egypt’s, Ghofran Ahmed, according to the Jordan Olympic Committee News Service.

He competed at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, defeating Alexey Denisenko from Russia, 10-6, fighting against the far taller opponent and opening the match with a head kick right on the first round buzzer to take a 3-0 lead.

Abughaush told the press “it’s an indescribable feeling to win the first medal in the history of Jordan in all the sports” and said “it’s also a great feeling to listen to the national anthem of Jordan being played in Rio in front of the whole world.”

However, for Palestinians, Abughaush’s victory was marred by claims from Israel that the athlete’s roots in the Jerusalem area are “Israeli,” and that his family “relocated” or “moved” to Jordan decades ago.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported the Olympian’s heritage is from an “Israeli-Arab village,” while i24 referred to the Palestinian hamlet as an “Arab majority town.”

The fact that the Olympic medalist’s grandparents moved from the village of Abughaush to Jordan has been reported by numerous Israeli media sources, who have all omitted the important detail that Abughaush was raised in al-Nasser, a refugee camp for Palestinians near Jordan’s capital – a detail of his family’s displacement which has been omitted from Israeli news coverage.

One Palestinian official lashed out at the presentation of the Olympian’s family history on social media, saying: “I’ve noticed that several Israeli media outlets and Hasbara surrogates are in denial that Ahmad Abugaush is Palestinian in origin and hails from the village of Abughaush, West of Jerusalem.”

“I mean now they had stolen the land and appropriated the ‘Khuumus’ they also want to claim the gold medal?” spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority Jamal Dajani wrote on Facebook.

However, and despite the furor surrounding this young and talented athlete’s history, his Palestinian roots cannot be denied as he basks in the glory of his success.

(Additional Information: Mondoweiss)

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