Flame Bearers: Keeping the Fire Burning

Flame Bearers: Keeping the Fire Burning spotlights women Olympians and Paralympians who sought to compete in the Tokyo Summer or Beijing Winter Olympi…
Aug 17th, 2020 | 23:18

Sanda Aldass (IOC Refugee Team): Judo & the Refugee Experience

Sanda is a Syrian refugee, living in the Netherlands with her husband (who is also her coach) and their three children. She’s a current International Olympic Committee (IOC) Refugee Athlete Scholarship-Holder, the elite group amongst which the 2021 Refugee Team will be selected. This episode spotlights what it means to be refugee, how Sanda copes with her situation, and what going to the Games (hopefully!) will mean to her. Experts interviewed include Renée Wolforth, Jackdar Mohammad, and Anne-Sophie Thilo.
While karate is the most well-known form of martial arts in the US, many other forms have grown in popularity as well, making their way into the Olympics. Judo is a relatively young sport, having been invented in 1882 in Japan, it became an Olympic sport in the 60’s. The object is to throw your opponent on their back, and it also imparts values. Nicholas Messner is part of the International Judo Federation (IJF) and serves as the director of Judo for Peace, an organisation that uses the values of judo to help build a better society. He spear heads efforts with refugee organizations across the world to impart the values of judo. Helping people gain self confidence, become better citizens, and develop the body and mind. One such refugee is Sanda Aldass is an IOC Refugee Scholarship recipient, specializing in Judo. She is trying to secure her spot on the 2021 refugee team for the Tokyo Olympics. Sanda is a mother of three, and her husband is also a judo athlete, who serves as her coach. She explains that he understands how difficult it is to parent and train, and she wouldn’t be able to do it without him. When they fled Syria for the Netherlands, judo was their rock, a constant thing in their lives, and she was eager to connect with the IJF when they arrived. For Sanda, it is important for her to compete in the games so she can serve as a beacon of hope to other women in similar situations. Refugee athletes don’t have the money and support that comes from a national backer. So, Sanda and her fellow athletes have to work to help with things like a place to train and finding childcare for her children while she works toward the Olympics.. She says often, people want to look the other way when confronted with the experience of escaping conflict, however she says she’s proud to give refugees a different spotlight. Anne-Sophie Thilo is a former Olympic Swiss sailor, and current press attchée for the Refugee team. She works one-on-one with all the scholarship recipients. In the Rio Olympic games, 10 refugee athletes competed for the first time. The IOC had to be flexible on the criteria on competitions and qualifications that allow members to compete in the games. There is solidarity amongst the teammates, though they are living across the world from each other. The team Anne-Sophie says, is a symbol of peace and what could be. Sanda leaves listeners with a message of positivity, encouraging them to feel the life. Links: Learn more about Sanda Aldass. Learn more about the Olympic Refugee Team and consider sponsoring an athlete. Connect with Becky on Twitter and Instagram.