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  • Mary al-Atrash trains in a pool in Beit Sahour, near the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

    Mary al-Atrash trains in a pool in Beit Sahour, near the West Bank town of Bethlehem. | Photo: @DerekStoffelCBC

The use of superior Israeli facilities and training partners in nearby Jerusalem is prohibited because al-Atrash is not allowed to travel there to train.

Mary al-Atrash, a Palestinian swimmer is going to the Rio 2016 Olympics despite the fact that the Israeli occupation has made her training extremely difficult.

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The 22-year-old university graduate's preparations have been hampered because she does not have an Olympic-sized pool to train in. There are none in Beit Sahour in the West Bank where she lives, or in the Occupied Territories at all. She has had to train in a 25-meter pool—half the regulation size.

She also has had no training partners and has had to rely solely on her coach, Musa Nawawra. She recently traveled to Algeria, where she had her first opportunity to train in an Olympic-size pool.

Use of superior Israeli facilities and training partners in nearby Jerusalem where there are several Olympic-sized pools and many swimmers, is prohibited because the Israeli occupation does not allow al-Atrash to travel to Jerusalem to train.

"Preparations are going well, and considering the resources we have ... we are able to achieve our best and set goals and ambitions … I am so happy, representing Palestine in competitions it’s a dream for any Palestinian athlete, especially the Olympics,” al-Atrash told Reuters.

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She will be competing in the 50 meters freestyle competition and her coach was also upbeat, despite the lack of adequate training conditions. "I am very happy that there is someone from Palestine who will represent us in the Olympics. This is something to be proud of, especially with the limited resources we have," Nawawra said.

In total, six Palestinians are competing in Rio and the delegation will be the largest Palestine has sent to the Olympics since it first participated in Atlanta in 1996. Five athletes went to London in 2012.

al-Atrash is one of two swimmers and two runners invited, a man and woman in each category, to compete under an International Olympic Committee program for nations whose athletes have not managed to attain the qualifying minimum.

Mohammed Abu Khoussa will run in the 100 and 200 meters sprints and Mayada Sayyad in the marathon. Swimmer Ahmed Jibril will compete in the 200 and 400 meters freestyle.

Palestine will also be represented in dressage by equestrian Christian Zimmermann and in judo by Simon Yacoub, both of whom have dual German and Palestinian nationality.

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