London Olympics: Athletes represent Arab Spring

Tunisian gymnast, Yemenite judoka fought for freedom

01 August, 18:45

(ANSAmed) - LONDON, AUGUST 1 - Some Olympic athletes, such as Yemen's Ali Khousrof and Tunisia's Wajdi Bouallegue, are competing for something more than the gold: these young survivors of the Arab Spring are here to represent their countries' aspirations for freedom.

In April 2011, judoka Khousrof, 23, got a stray bullet in the stomach at a demonstration during his country's uprisings against the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh. ''He was an authentic dictator,'' said Khousrof, who spent four months in intensive care.

Miraculously, he healed, resumed training, and is now here, representing what he says is a new, democratic Yemen. ''I'm very proud,'' said the young athlete. ''I am the only Yemenite at these Olympics. The people back home love me.'' Gymnast Bouallegue, 30, also knows first-hand what it means to oppose a dictatorial regime: he was expelled from Tunisia for publicly ripping up a photo of now ousted leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. ''They charged me with anti-governmental behavior, and the interior ministry began to cause me a lot of problems,'' said Bouallegue, who initially resisted going back to Tunisia to compete for its Olympic team. ''I had given up on sports, but Tunisia didn't have enough Olympic-level athletes, so they called me back. I did it because I'm disciplined. And I'm proud. I made my own personal revolution before the real one started,'' Bouallegue said. ''We are the true ambassadors of our countries. We athletes represent our country better than dictators and politicians. Freedom is the very first thing human beings compete for. And my people won.'' (ANSAMed).

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