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He nearly drowned escaping Syria but now Eid is the next swim sensation

PUBLISHED: 10:00 13 March 2019

Swimmer Eid Aljazairli at the London Aquatics Centre.

Swimmer Eid Aljazairli at the London Aquatics Centre.

Archant

A Syrian refugee who only started swimming a year ago hopes to follow in the footsteps of sport-legend Michael Phelps and compete in the next Olympics.

Eid Aljazairli, 24, who fled the civil war in Syria and arrived in the UK in 2016, is training four hours a day to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

But Eid only started swimming in January 2018 after watching a video online of swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time.

Eid told the Recorder: “I didn’t even know this guy but he was so good.

“It touched me so deep. I watched the first film and then the second.

“He took me so far away and I just knew I wanted to do something with this sport, to go to the Olympics, to be the new person who swims like Michael Phelps.”

Eid trains for two hours every morning before college, where he is learning English, and two hours every evening.

His homework has to be done on the Tube.

Many people told Eid that, at 24, it was too late for him to go for the Olympics.

“But there are no rules about sport”, he said. “No rules about education or anything. People say there are but I believe in myself. The fire is on and the passion is there.”

During the escape from Syria, Eid almost drowned in a small boat off Greece when the engine cut out.

He said: “I will never forget, every single time a wave hit the boat, we were lifted two or three metres in the air before slamming down. It was so scary.”

Two months after arriving in the UK he was moved to Chadwell Heath by the Home Office, where he studied at Barking and Dagenham College. He now lives in Walthamstow with a British family.

Although Eid trains in a few different places, the London Aquatics Centre at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is his favourite.

He said: “I’m just so happy and thankful to be here because it’s the Olympic Pool.”

He added: “Michael Phelps was swimming here and that means a lot to me”.

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