“All Paralympians have stories of incredible resilience but the stories of these athletes and their journeys as refugees surviving war and persecution to compete at the Paralympic Games is off-the-charts awe inspiring,” said Andrew Parsons, International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President.  

Representing more than 120 million forcibly displaced people and 1.2 billion with disabilities worldwide, these eight athletes are based in six countries and will compete across six sports – Para athletics, Para powerlifting, Para table tennis, Para taekwondo, Para triathlon, and wheelchair fencing.

“These athletes have persevered and shown incredible determination to get to Paris 2024 and give every refugee around the world hope. The Refugee Paralympic Team shines a spotlight on the transformational impact of sport,” Mr. Parsons added.  

‘Never stop dreaming’

Now living in Italy, Amelio Castro Grueso is set to compete in wheelchair fencing in Paris. After enduring the death of his mother in Colombia at only 16, he faced further tragedy just four years later when he lost the use of his legs in a traffic accident.  

He was then forced to flee his homeland due to threats against him, arriving in a new country in a wheelchair without knowing the language spoken or anyone to help him.  

After a long journey of recovery, he vowed to write a book to share his story – but realised that more people would read it if he were a medal-winning athlete.  

Of his greatest sporting achievements to date, Mr. Grueso won bronze in the Men’s Epee Category B in the 2024 Wheelchair fencing America’s Championship in Brazil this May.

His experience has shown him that, even amid tremendous hardship, life’s most important lesson is to never give up.  

“Never stop dreaming and that no matter how difficult your life or the moment you are facing, don’t give up, keep fighting. The day you least expect it, you will find that light at the end of the tunnel and that wonderful moment will come when everything changes for the better,” he said.  

‘A model for all of us’

Among the other participants is Syrian refugee Ibrahim Al Hussein. After losing his leg in an explosion trying to save his friend during the civil war in Syria in 2012, he fled to Greece in a wheelchair with no money in his pocket.

This will be Mr. Hussein’s third successive Paralympic Games representing the Refugee Paralympic Team.  

Meanwhile, Guillaume Junior Atangana from Cameroon is preparing for his second Paralympic Games after finishing fourth in the 400 metre T11 in Tokyo 2020.  

Though he originally wanted to be a great footballer, he turned to athletics when he lost his eyesight.  

This year, he will line up alongside his guide and fellow refugee Donard Ndim Nyamjua.

‘Never stop believing’

While the stories of all the participants echo the immense adversity each of them have faced, one message shines through time and time again: nothing is impossible.    

“The Refugee Paralympic Team offers a model for all of us. No matter how difficult their circumstances, these athletes have found a way to compete at the very highest level of Paralympic sport,” the Refugee Paralympic Team leader Nyasha Mharakurwa said.