Syrian swimmer drops out of competition rather than face Israeli at World Championship

Hammam Hashim Mualla, part of the Syrian national swim team, was set to participate in the men’s 200-metre butterfly


A Syrian swimmer has pulled out of the World Aquatics Masters Championships in Japan due to Israel’s participation in the competition.

Hammam Hashim Mualla, who is part of the Syrian national swimming team, was set to participate in the men’s 200-metre butterfly during the international tournament.

However, Mualla withdrew from the competition as soon as he found out that he was scheduled to compete in the event with an Israeli swimmer.

The 2023 World Aquatics Masters Championships was held across the three Japanese cities of Fukuoka, Kumamoto, and Kagoshima from August 2 to 11.

According to the state-controlled Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), Mualla was born in Damascus in 1973 and has participated in many local, international and continental championships.

SANA said the athlete’s withdrawal was “due to the presence of an Israeli player.”

The World Masters Swimming Championships governing body said it respected Mualla’s personal decision but stated that they always encourage participation from all athletes, regardless of their country of origin. 

Their primary aim is to celebrate the spirit of sportsmanship, transcending borders and disputes.

Mualla is the latest in a string of athletes who have withdrawn from international tournaments to avoid facing opponents from Israel.

Many athletes from Arab and Muslim countries with no formal diplomatic relations with Israel including Syria have withdrawn from competitions with Israeli competitors. 

Earlier this year, Lebanese runner Mazen Chreim withdrew from the 200 metre competition of the World Athletics Masters Indoor Championships in Poland in March after he was placed in a group that included an Israeli runner.

Speaking on TV earlier this year, he said his withdrawal from this championship was considered as “a victory”. He stated that “shaking hands with the enemies means recognizing them.”

Kuwaiti fencer Abdulaziz Alshatti withdrew from the 2023 Fédération Internationale d’Escrime (FIE) Senior World Cup contests in Turkey in May to avoid taking on an Israeli contestant.

Alshatti wrote on his Instagram page: “I withdrew from the tournament because of the presence of a representative from the Zionist entity in the same group.”

In July, the World Beach Games were cancelled after Indonesia withdrew as host of the tournament at the last minute.

At the time of the cancellation, no reasons were given by the hosts but Bali Governor Wayan Koster said in April that he would not allow Israeli athletes on his island for the games.

Also earlier this year, Indonesia was stripped of hosting privileges for the U20 World Cup after calls to ban Israel’s participation in the tournament.

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