Swimmers Matin Balsini, Alaa Maso Named to Refugee Olympic Team

Photo Courtesy: IOC

Swimmers Matin Balsini, Alaa Maso Named to Refugee Olympic Team

Swimmers Matin Balsini and Alaa Maso have been named to the Refugee Olympic team or the Paris Olympics, the International Olympic Committee announced on Thursday.

The swimming duo are among 36 individuals – 23 men, 13 women – from three continents named to the team. They will compete under the French acronym EOR (Equipe Olympique des Refugies) with its own emblem for the first time. The athletes hail from 11 countries, are being hosted by 15 different nations and will compete in 12 sports.

Maso, 24, is in his second Olympics. He was raised in Aleppo, Syria, before resettling in Germany after fleeing the country’s civil war in 2015. He competed in the men’s 50 freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics.

Maso has swum in each of the last three World Aquatics Championships plus the 2021 World Short-Course Championships. He placed 60th in the 100 free and 55th in the 50 free in Doha in 2024. He went 23.65 in the 50, 52.11 in the 100 and 57.13 in the 100 butterfly at the Eindhoven Qualification Meet in April.

Balsini competed at the Tokyo Olympics for Iran, finishing 33rd in the men’s 200 butterfly. He relocated from Tehran to the United Kingdom in 2022 and formally sought asylum, which required a seven-month hiatus from swimming. The 23-year-old most recently swam at the British National Championships last month. He trains at the University of Surrey.

“The athletes are not representing a specific country; they are representing the Refugee Olympic Team,” chef de mission Ali Zada said in a press release. “Having our own emblem creates a sense of belonging and empowers us to also stand for the population of more than 100 million people who share this same experience. I cannot wait to wear it proudly!”

“We welcome all of you with open arms,” IOC president Thomas Bach said at a ceremony Thursday in Lausanne. “You are an enrichment to our Olympic Community, and to our societies. With your participation in the Olympic Games, you will demonstrate the human potential of resilience and excellence. This will send a message of hope to the more than 100 million displaced people around the world.”

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