Badminton-From refugee to Olympian, Aram Mahmoud fights to play

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By Richa Naidu

TOKYO (Reuters) - Six years ago, Aram Mahmoud fled war-torn Syria for the Netherlands, leaving behind his sister, parents and dreams of becoming a world-class badminton player.

Little did he know that one day, he'd be squaring off against the world's seventh-best men's singles player at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

While Mahmoud, who began playing badminton with his sister at the age of seven, didn't win against Indonesia's Jonatan Christie, the 24-year-old is still proud of his achievement, scoring 14 points to Christie's 21 in their second match at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza.

"I represent me, I represent my family, I represent my sister," Mahmoud, one of 29 athletes competing under the banner of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, said after his match.

"I don't know if they can watch the match, but I will send them some pictures and videos."

Originally from Damascus, Mahmoud is the only badminton player on the IOC refugee team and ranks 172nd in the men's singles league table.

His older sister, Sanaa, has represented Syria in badminton, including at the 2015 Asian Championships in Wuhan, China.

"She texted me before the match," said Mahmoud. "I couldn't answer because I had to warm up a bit, but she's very happy."

In January, Mahmoud started training at Badminton Europe's Centre of Excellence in Holbaek, Denmark.

His father, who had coached him when he played at school, still goes over his videos to evaluate his style and suggest ways he can improve his game.

"I hope I can continue developing myself and will be able to play in the next Olympics," said Mahmoud, who now lives in Almere, the Netherlands. "It's been a dream for me, my whole life."

(Reporting by Richa Naidu; Editing by Karishma Singh)

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