Olympic gold medal is the next goal of the Taekwondo refugee athlete. WT

20 years old Taekwondo athlete Yahya Al Ghotany was 7 years old when the civil war broke out in his homeland of Syria.

Along with some 40,000 Syrians, he and his family have been sheltering in the Azraq refugee camp, a 14.7-square-kilometer community established and managed by the Jordanian government and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, 90 kilometers from the Syrian border in northeastern Jordan, The Korea Times reports.

It was there where he, the first in a family of seven children, discovered taekwondo "by chance." His friend at the camp told him about the taekwondo course offered by the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation (THF) in 2016. That is how he got into the sport, without knowing it would completely change his life.

It didn't take long before Al Ghotany showed a natural ability for the sport and began aspiring for the highest levels as an athlete. He reached the black belt second-dan level after only five years of practicing the sport under challenging and limited circumstances inside the camp. He participated in several international tournaments outside the country with the support of World Taekwondo (WT) as well.

Yahya Al-Ghotani in 2018.WT
Yahya Al-Ghotani in 2018.WT

Finally on 2 May, 2024, the second day of the three-day Hope and Dreams Sports Festival, an annual joint sports humanitarian initiative organized by WT and THF, Al Ghotany's dream came true. He was officially named as one of the 36 athletes from 11 countries competing in 12 sports for the IOC Refugee Olympic Team Paris 2024.

In less than two months, he will compete against the world's best players to vie for medals at the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics under the IOC Refugee Olympic Team's own emblem, featuring a heart at its center.

Al Ghotany is now training with the Jordanian national taekwondo team at the Olympic Preparation Center in central Amman under the guidance of Faris Al Assaf. Al Assaf is the legendary coach who taught Ahmad Abughaush, Jordan's first Olympic medalist who won gold during the Rio 2016 Summer Games.

The next gol is the a Olympic gold medal. WT
The next gol is the a Olympic gold medal. WT

"Yahya is the first refugee athlete to go to the Olympics from Jordan. This may be good for the new generation (of athletes) to see how one refugee player trains in Jordan and goes to the Olympics," Al Assaf said, pointing out that Al Ghotany boasts exceptional focus and mind control abilities as a taekwondo athlete despite hard circumstances.

Despite now being an Olympian, Al Ghotany remains faithful to his role as a senior trainee back on his home ground. He is a role model who realized the earnest dreams of his friends at the camp, who unanimously and enthusiastically named their life goals to become international taekwondo athletes, coaches or referees and finally make it to the Olympics.H

Having achieved his goal of making it to the Olympic Games, Al Ghotany said, "My next goal is to win a gold medal at the Olympics."