One athlete’s journey from Iraq to Denmark to Canada

AC883 is proudly sponsoring a young Danish athlete’s quest for a medal at Obstacle Course Racing World Championships

This weekend, elite athletes from around the world will gather at Blue Mountain, Canada to compete in the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships. The AC883 team will be cheering loudly at the finish line as a proud sponsor of Danish competitor Hussain Hafedi. At 22 years old, Hussain’s inspiring story from a young immigrant to Denmark to becoming one of the top names in the European racing world is the reason why we’re excited to help him achieve his goal of becoming world champion.

It is never easy for an immigrant family to integrate into their new country’s culture and lifestyle, but it is becoming much more difficult in Denmark. For those lucky ones who do gain entry, it can take years before they are granted Danish citizenship, which requires passing a difficult exam that includes questions ranging throughout the country’s two thousand year-plus history. While it’s certainly important to have stringent requirements, it can make life difficult for families who are seeking better opportunities than the ones afforded to them at birth.

Hussain was five years old when his family left Iraq for Denmark, settling in Holbæk. “I remember riding my bike through the town, passing the parks and apple trees,” he said fondly. “It was really special.”

Both of his parents were former gymnasts, so it made sense that Hussain inherited athletic ability. Growing up, he played no less than 13 different sports at a high level before he began obstacle course racing three years ago. His coach noticed Hussain’s natural talent and encouraged him to start taking his training seriously. He took the advice to heart, winning bronze at the European OCR championships and earning the right to compete for the world title in Canada.

To do that, however, Hussain had to come up with the money himself. As a new sport, the Danish government doesn’t fund obstacle course racing, so in order to come to Canada he needed a sponsor. He turned to an old mentor whom Hussain had known for many years, who suggested he get in touch with Lars Bendsen, CEO of AC883 in Toronto. Impressed with Hussain’s determination, Lars agreed to sponsor him to come to Canada.

“Coming to Denmark as a young immigrant and succeeding as he did throughout his life, it was important that he had the chance to come to Canada and compete,” Lars said. “With our connection between Denmark and Canada, to me it was a no brainer to sponsor him. You could call it paying back a little bit – we help Danish companies come to North America to do business, so why can’t we help a bit the other way around?”

When he found out he was coming to Canada, the first thing Hussain did was to pull out his Canada Goose jacket from his closet. “I thought it would be freezing!” he laughed. Luckily Ontario is experiencing warmer-than-normal temperatures in October, so Hussain felt okay to leave his bulky down jacket behind. As a first-timer to Canada, he was looking forward to experiencing the country’s legendary friendliness for himself. “I like that it’s such an open nation,” he said. “Canadians go about their business and don’t stop to think about where you came from.”

At the world championships, the competition is intense – three days of obstacle course racing that tests an athlete’s speed, agility and strength. Hussain is aiming for a Top 10 finish, but hoping to be on the medal podium at the end. When he returns to Denmark he is keen to become a politician, first with a city council run and later, the mayor’s office. “There are so many things I want to do: help develop children’s programs, repair the city’s economic prospects and provide funding for the older generation to live a comfortable life,” he said. “We need to say thank you to them, and at the same time care for our children, who are the future of Denmark.”

 

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