‘Making My Country Proud’ – First Palestinian Boxer to Participate in the Olympics

Palestinian boxer Waseem Abu Sal. (Photo: Abu Sal IG Page)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

“Just wait and watch me in the Paris Olympics. I hope to show my abilities and make my country proud.”

A childhood dream will soon come true for Palestinian boxer Waseem Abu Sal when he competes in the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris.

“This has been my dream since I was ten years old,” Abu Sal said. “Every day I went to sleep and woke up thinking about how I could reach the Olympics.”

After accepting a wildcard pick from the International Olympic Committee (OIC), the 20-year-old will become the first Palestinian boxer to compete at the games.

“Waseem earned a wildcard entry after a series of intense qualifying bouts, becoming the first boxer from Palestine to achieve this milestone,” the Asian Boxing Federation (ASBC) said on its Instagram page.

Palestine has participated in the Olympics since 1995 – despite not being fully recognized as a state – with only 26 athletes reportedly having represented the nation in the history of the games.

Travel Restrictions

Based in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, Abu Sal receives daily training instructions via phone from his coach, Ahmad Harara, who lives in Cairo.

Since Harara is from Gaza, he cannot travel to the West Bank due to Israeli travel restrictions.

Abu Sal said in an AFP interview that he only sees Harara when “I travel” for international competitions.

“He writes my training program every day,” he reportedly said, adding that he trains in the morning and then again in the evening “with coach Nader Jayousi.”

Training Challenges

The Israeli occupation means Abu Sal’s training is challenged with not much opportunity for sparring with boxers in his weight category. His partner in Ramallah weighs 71 kg compared to Abu Sal’s 57 kg.

Another sparring partner closer to his weight is based in Jerusalem, but this makes regular training a tough task, due to Israel’s security barrier.

Jayousi, who heads the Palestinian Olympic delegation, said it is a “proud moment” not just for him, “but for Palestine.”

Abu Sal will compete in his first Olympic fight on July 28.

“Just wait and watch me in the Paris Olympics. I hope to show my abilities and make my country proud,” Abu Sal said.

Over 300 Sportsmen Killed

According to the Palestine Olympic Committee, over 300 athletes, referees and sports officials have been killed since the start of the war on October 7.

Additionally, all sports facilities and infrastructure in Gaza were demolished by Israeli occupation forces.

On June 11, long-distance runner Majed Abu Marahel, the first Palestinian to compete at the Olympics in 1996, died in Gaza due to Israel’s inhumane blockade on medication and the destruction of Gaza’s healthcare system.

Olympic Pioneer – Iconic Palestinian Athlete Dies in Gaza Due to Israeli Blockade

Abu Marahel died at the age of 61 at the Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza from kidney failure.

His condition was exacerbated by power outages and medical shortages caused by the ongoing Israeli siege.

Abu Marahel made history as the first Palestinian athlete to be the flag bearer and represent Palestine at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996.

He competed in the 10km race.

Last month, the president of the Palestine Olympic Committee, Jibril Rajoub, said at least six to eight Palestinian athletes were expected to compete in the games and that three of them would likely be from Gaza.

First Taekwondo Fighter

In May, Omar Yaser Ismail made history as the first Palestinian taekwondo player to qualify for the Olympics.

A three-time Arab champion, Ismail has also won bronze twice at the World Championship, and silver once at the Asian Championship.

Ismail has proudly displayed the Palestinian flag on the winning podium at previous events.

‘Making History’ – First Palestinian to Qualify for Olympics in Combat Sport

His win was widely celebrated on social media with one user saying “Thanks for giving me/us a reason to watch (the Olympic Games).”  Another saying: “This makes me wonder how much of a talent pool have the Palestinians lost in the form of artists, academics, sportspeople, music and so on. Hope Omar shines with the gold.”

In addition to Abu Sal and Ismail, Palestinian athletes will reportedly compete in judo, shooting, swimming and Taekwondo at the upcoming games.

Call to Ban Israel

Last month, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland to demand that Israel be barred from competing at the games amid the ongoing genocidal assault on Gaza.

‘Genocidal State’ – IOC Urged to Bar Israel from Olympic Games in Paris

The protesters held up a banner stating: “Let’s ban the genocidal Israeli state from the Olympic Games.”

Protesters pointed out that the committee “only took a few days” to exclude Russia and Belarus from the 2022 Olympics over the war in Ukraine, which began on February 24, 2022.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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