When Aker Al Obaidi first started wrestling aged 6, he had no idea that one day the sport would be his ticket to a new life. The young Iraqi competed for fun, and he showed enormous potential. Obaidi started winning junior tournaments, and was attracting the attention of other nations that wanted to recruit him. But when he turned 14, the fun abruptly stopped.
A group calling itself Islamic State took over his home city of Mosul, Iraq, and started recruiting boys around his age. He fled the country. “I didn’t want to leave, but I had to.” said Obaidi, now 21. “It was a very scary experience. I didn’t know where I was going or where I would end up.
I was separated from my family and following a group of others. I was scared whether my family would survive the war. I had to look after myself. “The whole situation was very tough, psychologically, and I’ve had to see doctors about what happened to me.” Aker is now a member of the Refugee Olympic Team