For World Aquatics Refugee Team member Eyad Masoud, swimming means "everything." 

"When I swim it is more than a sport. It is a meditation, a challenge, a motivation, an achievement and happiness," Masoud said to Sports Gazette. "I can't put it in words but I can tell you what it taught me - patience, determination, concentration, humbleness and love."

Swimming has also always been his way... to everything. But when civil war broke out in Syria, Masoud and his family had to leave. His Olympic dream felt like a distant dream. Emigrating first to Saudi Arabia where his father found work as a doctor, Eyad was without a place to train due to restrictions on foreigners using public pools. Nor was he allowed to take part in swimming competitions there.

That is until he had a chance encounter with a New Zealand-born coach. Meeting David Wright opened doors and resurrected Masoud's swimming career. Here's his story, just weeks away from competing at his second World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. 

Image Source: Mike Lewis/World Aquatics

As a swimmer, water is your world. How did you first get started in the sport, and when did you first start thinking, planning and training to one day compete on the global stage?

I started swimming at five years old. My dad got my brother and me started at a young age so that we could learn the great values of sports. I have always enjoyed being in the pool, and my love for the sport grew when I won my first ever race when I was seven.

I have always dreamt of competing on the global stage and along the way I have started painting that picture. However, my former coach David Wright was the one to put colours on it by believing in me since we first met.

Sometimes your purpose in life is way bigger than you imagined. When you were forced from the borders of Syria, did you always believe that swimming competitively would still be a driving force in your life?

Image Source: Gabriel Monnet/World Aquatics

To a certain extent, that was my only motivation. I knew that if I have it in me to swim, I can transfer this feeling to motivation to help me overcome the difficulties I was facing at the time. Therefore, I never wanted to stop swimming because that was the time when I felt alive.

After leaving Syria and you eventually ended up in New Zealand. What was the community support like there? When and where did you pick back up on your training?

Thanks to David, he helped me find a home and supported me with my living and well-being. He also made sure my training program was well-balanced and was making sure whenever I competed I was there to deliver a high performance.

Through my interaction with the swimming pool’s staff, I was able to secure a job to support myself financially. Here is where I started building friendships that lasted a long time. The AUT Millennium community were very welcoming to have me around and proud to have me as a member of the community.

As a member of the World Aquatics Refuge Team, what does it mean to you to be soon competing at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka?  

Image Source: Mike Lewis/World Aquatics

Competing at the World Aquatics Championships means the world to me. It facilitates a way to be able to send a message of hope to all the people around the world. It also opens the door for me to compete on the global stage to provide me with the opportunity to grow and progress in my swimming career.

How has being a part of the World Aquatics Refugee Team helped you in following your hopes and dreams in the pool?

Being part of the World Aquatics Refugee Team provided me with the motivation to become a better athlete. By having the chance to interact with the best in the world, I was able to work towards becoming the best I can be. I am mentally and physically stronger. And I will continue with my road of progress to be the best representation for myself, my team, and for all the people who shared my journey.

The story of hope that refugee athletes like yourself embody is still being written. With World Refugee Day today, what do you hope people take away from your journey?

This is a quote that always resonated with me and I have found it to be very true “You have to believe it in your heart, that no matter how bad it is or how bad it gets, I AM GOING TO MAKE IT.”