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Video: Palestinian swimmer overcomes Israeli restrictions to prepare for Rio Olympics


Less than a month before the 2016 Summer Olympics begin in Rio De Janeiro, Mondoweiss met with Mary al Atrash, a 22-year-old swimmer from Beit Sahour in the West Bank who will be part of the largest delegation Palestine has ever sent to the Olympics Games.

Al Atrash will compete in the 50 meters freestyle, but her training has been complicated. She does not have an Olympic-size pool to train in, and she also has no training partners. Nearby Jerusalem has better facilities, including several Olympic-sized pools and many swimmers to train with, but due to the Israeli occupation al Atrash is unable to travel to Jerusalem to train.

A new generation of athletes is emerging in Palestine due to the work of sport federations as well as the Palestine Olympic Committee and the significant role played by the new head of the committee Jibril Rajoub. Mary’s coach, Musa Nawawra, hopes that her achievements will inspire a younger generation of athletes in Palestine.

Mary al Atrash is extremely proud to wear the Palestinian colors in Rio and can’t wait to compete in the the Olympic games. She recently left Beit Sahour to train in Algeria before the international competition. It will be her first time training in a real, Olympic-sized pool.


Jimmy Hutcheon

Jimmy Hutcheon is a French freelance journalist and videographer covering Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

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Chloé Rouveyrolles

Chloé Rouveyrolles is a Paris-born journalist covering Middle East affairs with enthusiasm. She's currently based between Israel and the Palestinian territories. You can follow her on Twitter @tweetingchloe.

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17 Responses

  1. just on July 19, 2016, 12:53 pm

    THE reason to tune in to Rio! Best of luck to Mary and Musa.

    The world will be watching~ perhaps they’ll finally act with a big, huge BDS! Thank you Jimmy Hutcheon and Chloé Rouveyrolles.

  2. eljay on July 19, 2016, 12:57 pm

    Yes, best of luck to Mary and to the entire Palestinian Olympic team.

  3. Talkback on July 19, 2016, 1:01 pm

    Swimming for Nonjews verboten.

    • eljay on July 19, 2016, 1:09 pm

      || Talkback: Swimming for Nonjews verboten. ||

      If they covet it, no area – Palestine / Jerusalem / a swimming pool – is too small for Zio-supremacists to occupy.

      • Talkback on July 21, 2016, 10:03 am

        eljay, not only the land, but also the water and the air in Eretz Israel is Jewish. I can write it down and claim that these are G-d’s words, if you need proof.

      • eljay on July 21, 2016, 10:21 am

        No need to write it down: Your word that it’s gawd’s word is good enough for me. :-)
        – BUT-
        If you do write it down, be sure to use a very fancy font. Gawd doesn’t do boring. ;-)

  4. Mooser on July 19, 2016, 2:04 pm

    Mary al Atrash makes me think of the old Warren-Mercer tune, and straight out of a chlorinated pool, too!

  5. Citizen on July 19, 2016, 5:28 pm

    Best of luck to the Palestinian team–I will be rooting for them if I am still here.

    • just on July 20, 2016, 8:55 am

      Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.

      I’m wishing for your good health and presence here, there, and everywhere, Citizen.

      • annie on July 20, 2016, 10:46 am

        i second that! and it’s good to have you back just, i missed you around here.

  6. annie on July 19, 2016, 6:22 pm

    wonderful report and video. i read about mary before but the coverage didn’t include her views as much which i found really hopeful and beautiful. and such a great video — really.

  7. Mooser on July 19, 2016, 9:35 pm

    “wonderful report and video.”


  8. Citizen on July 20, 2016, 12:40 am

    She’s a Christian Palestinian. Here’s a bit more information on her and the others representing Palestine at the Olympics:

  9. jackal on July 23, 2016, 1:39 am

    If the Israelis were smart, they might want to sponsor Mary. Who knows? She might turn out to be the only winner they have. What bragging rights!!! And, it could make one of those many Palestinian kids think twice about throwing rocks.
    Just kidding — it would never happen.
    From a Canadian Atheist.

  10. rio2016 on July 31, 2016, 11:53 pm

    I bet that there will be instance this woman’s visa or passport will not allow her into Brazil for the Olympics similar thing when that Palestinian made that movie 5 broken cameras and he had issues getting into.Great to see how she & her team mates wont allow the scumbags to get her down & stop her representing their country. It would be amazing to see her flag flying proudly in Rio. Very best of luck to you lass except against us of course.a brave and talented athlete. i wish her well in her sport and in her fight for Palestinian justice. More updates on Rio here:

  11. Citizen on August 7, 2016, 8:01 am

    Tablet says there are three olympic size swimming pools in the OT; further, it says israel invited her to travel outside the OT to swim in an Israeli one. Seems there is one in Gaza, and one in Nablus? What’s the real story?

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