On this World Refugee Day, World Aquatics is proud to celebrate the incredible achievements of refugee athletes who have shown resilience, determination and excellence in overcoming immense challenges. Join us in celebrating their successes! 

Inspiring Olympians at Paris 2024 


Image Source: Matin Balsini competes in the Men's 200m Butterfly at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Swimmers Matin Balsini and Alaa Maso have been named to the IOC Refugee Olympic Team for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. 

Born in Tehran, Balsini began swimming and diving at the age of 8, and by 15, he had earned a spot on the Iranian national swimming team. After leaving Iran in 2022 and seeking asylum in the United Kingdom, he resumed training under Coach Lee Spindlow's mentorship while working as a lifeguard on weekends. Currently, he is focused on improving his personal best in the 200m butterfly ahead of Paris 2024. 

Image Source: Alaa Maso competes at the World Aquatics Championships - Fukuoka 2023 (Tsutomu Kishimoto/World Aquatics)

Maso fled Syria in 2015 after his training facilities were destroyed and the conflict became overwhelming. After a long journey through Europe, he settled in Germany, where he resumed swimming with coach Emil Guliyev. Maso also returned to school. Maso fulfilled a lifelong dream by competing at the Olympic Games in the 50m freestyle at Tokyo 2020. His story of overcoming adversity through sport was further celebrated when he signed the “Golden Book” of Hannover at the Town Hall, becoming the first refugee athlete to be honoured this way. 

Their selection is a testament to their undeniable hard work and dedication to their sports. We wish them the very best in Paris! 

Read more about their inspiring story here 

World Aquatics Refugees Shine at Doha 2024 


Image Source: Mohamed Eyad Masoud competes in Men’s 50m Butterfly heats at the World Aquatics Championships - Doha 2024 (Tsutomu Kishimoto/World Aquatics)

The 2024 World Aquatics Championships in Doha was a significant milestone for refugee athletes. Ninety-three World Aquatics Scholarship holders participated, showcasing their talents on an international stage. Among them, were World Aquatics Refugee Team members Alaa Maso and Mohamad Eyad Masoud 

Masoud fled Syria, eventually settling in New Zealand where he began training and teaching at the AUT Millennium Sports Centre, part of the Auckland University of Technology, alongside studying mechanical engineering. 

Both athletes’ participation in such prestigious events as the World Championships highlights the continued importance of providing opportunities and support for refugee athletes. 

Yusra Mardini: Champion and Ambassador 


Image Source: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Yusra Mardini continues to inspire as she remains deeply involved in aquatics sports. As an Olympic and World Champion and an athlete ambassador for the World Aquatics Championships in Doha 2024, Yusra represents the remarkable strength of refugee athletes.  

Mardini, a Syrian refugee and talented swimmer, fled her war-torn country in 2015. During a boat journey to Europe, she and her sister saved fellow refugees by swimming for hours to safety. Settling in Germany, she resumed swimming and competed for the IOC Refugee Olympic Team in Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. Her story inspired a book and a film, and she became a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.  

Discover more about her ambassador role and other champions involved at Doha 2024 here.  

World Aquatics remains committed to supporting these incredible athletes and providing platforms for them to excel, continuing to champion the values of hope, resilience and unity through aquatics sports.