Wael Fawaz Al-Farraj, left, made history in Fujairah ©THF

Wael Fawaz Al-Farraj has made history after competing at two international taekwondo tournaments in the United Arab Emirates.

The 19-year-old, who lives at the Azraq Camp in Jordan and trained at the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation (THF) Academy there, is the first Syrian refugee to compete at an overseas event.

Both competitions took place in Fujairah - starting with the Arab Cup where he lost to an opponent from Jordan in the golden score period.

Al-Farraj was then defeated by a Croatian opponent, the second seed, in the Fujairah Open.

Despite the defeats, the teenager had already broken new ground just by reaching the events, where he competed under the World Taekwondo flag.

He was the first athlete to gain a black belt from the THF Academy at Azraq and was close to featuring at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as part of the refugee team.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded him an Olympic Solidarity scholarship through the Olympic Refuge Foundation, and although he was ultimately not selected for the Games in Japan, IOC President Thomas Bach has expressed pride at his appearances in Fujairah. 

Wael Fawaz Al-Farraj is targeting the Paris 2024 Olympics after making his overseas appearance ©THF
Wael Fawaz Al-Farraj is targeting the Paris 2024 Olympics after making his overseas appearance ©THF

World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue awarded appreciation plaques to Farah Al Asa'ad, the Middle East and North Africa Coordinator for the THF, and Al-Farraj's coach Asef Sabah.

These were in recognition of their dedicated service and outstanding contribution to taekwondo development.

It was a productive few days for the THF as the Crown Prince of Fujairah made a donation of $100,000 (£75,000/€87,000) to the organisation.

"As his first participation outside Jordan at such high standard competitions, he performed the best he can and the aim for this participation is to gain experience and live the moment with other international players," said Al Asa'ad. 

"And these competitions are the beginning of a long way to Paris 2024.

"The World Taekwondo President Dr. Choue and the THF team are extremely proud of him and offered their full support to him to succeed in the upcoming events as this mission will open better opportunities for him in the future and it was good exposure for future events. 

"And I would like to sincerely thank the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Fujairah H.H Sheikh Mohammed Bin Hamad Al Sharqi for his generous donation for the THF, the Fujairah Organising Committee for their support and help and the Jordanian authorities for facilitating his trip."

Choue, who announced the formation of the THF in 2015, paid tribute to Al-Farraj's achievement.

"Over the years, Wael has been a shining example of how refugee athletes can pursue their dreams through sport," he said.

"His participation is a fantastic achievement and endorsement of the joint humanitarian efforts of World Taekwondo, the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation, the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Refuge Foundation."