Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Swimming To The Top...

Maria Asfoura, a thirteen-year-old Palestinian swimmer from Bethlehem, is an example of the Palestinian persistence in proving real talent and achieving success regardless of all difficulties.
She is a living proof that Palestinians are strong and ambitious people who will let nothing stand in their way, not even occupation.
Her dream is to raise the Palestinian flag at the 2008 Olympic Games in China.

Her journey began at the age of six when Maria's swimming instructor recognized her natural gift and encouraged her to enroll in the De La Salle sports club in Bethlehem. With the encouragement of her trainer at the club, Musa Nawawreh, and her parents she developed quickly. In her first race in Ramallah, she received a gold medal and that really encouraged her to work even harder.
Considered the best Palestinian swimmer her age, Maria specializes in the freestyle and butterfly strokes at 50 and 100 meters. She has competed well in China, Germany, Jordan and Algeria and her trophy case proves it, with her 31 gold medals and 30 some silver and bronze medals. Maria has also traveled to Greece to be with the Palestine team at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, to show her support.
And since it's sometimes hard to balance school and swimming, Maria gets a lot of support from her teachers who often visit her at home on weekends to tutor her for classes that she has missed. The Israeli occupation presents its fair share of challenges as well. Born to Palestinian parents in Colombia, Maria is able to travel on her El Salvadorian passport to leave Palestine through Jordan. Otherwise, it would be much more difficult to receive permission to leave through Jordan. "When I travel I see the difference; what it's like not to live under occupation" she notes. Maria finds comfort when other athletes at competitions abroad express their solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom. In Greece and Algeria she and other Palestinian athletes were even asked for their autographs.
Maria is now training for next summer's World Championships in Montréal, Canada. The challenge of proving herself on the world stage is something Maria looks forward to.
"Although we have to struggle for freedom, we also have to keep working and training" Maria says.

We wish you the best of luck Maria, hoping your dream will come true and we'll see Palestine's flag raised high up in the sky reaching out for millions of people in the Olympics and wherever you and other Palestinian athletes go.
We are so proud of you...
Via: This Week In Palestine.

To learn more about Maria, visit her website where you can find a photo gallery and information about her life in both Arabic and English.