25-year-old Palestinian-born Mahmoud Olwan is pursuing his ultimate dream to be the first equestrian from his country to compete in the Olympics. Growing up in a country torn apart by bombings, wars, and killings, Olwan always dreamed of making his country proud by being the bringer of peace in the world’s biggest gathering of countries for sports.
Mahmoud Olwan started riding horses as young as six years old, and he grew up watching his cousin and sister compete in Palestine’s first riding club that was developed by his uncle. Whenever they got recognition for their achievements and received praise for their exemplary performance, Olwan felt a surge of wanting the same feats inside of him. His desire fuelled his discipline and determination to train. A few months later, he won his first equestrian competition. Ever since then, he has never stopped dreaming of one day competing in an international event.
However, his dream was challenged by his family’s lack of means as he grew up in a home of nine siblings. Despite the huge barrier between him and competing in the Olympics, Mahmoud Olwan never lost hope that he would make it in the international equestrian scene one day. True enough, his luck started to change when he met retired Episcopalian priest Mark Stanger, who helped him find ways to compete in the United States.
Before they met, Stanger had no idea that Mahmoud Olwan was praying and fasting to visit the American consulate in Jerusalem to get a visa so that he could compete in the United States. On the day they met, Olwan just received his visa and was eager to celebrate this accomplishment. Despite being strangers to each other, the two immediately connected. When Olwan finally moved to the United States, he stayed with Stanger, who became his father figure while away from home. Stanger encouraged him to pursue his passion to be a professional equestrian showjumper.
“If you have a talent and dream, start to make plans to tell your story to people around you. Share with your parents and family members who love to support and believe in you. Start chasing that dream, make plans, and go. Don’t give up the first ten times you fail. Start where you stopped and keep going. Although it looks that your dream is impossible, keep going,” Olwan tells aspiring equestrians out there.
At present, Mahmoud Olwan is training with a horse named Corteo, an Oldenburg stallion who comes from a strong bloodline, very athletic, and quite easy to work with. They are both training hard to compete in the Tokyo Olympics. Olwan and Corteo are proving to be a formidable team as they are winning competitions in the Grand Prix levels, hunters, and equitation levels. Olwan also received a saddle sponsorship from Devoucoux, a manufacturer of luxury horse saddles. The young athlete is also looking forward to connecting with as many groups and companies as he can to support his trip to the Olympics.
What used to be just a dream for Mahmoud Olwan is slowly coming to life due to his talent, strength, and support from his family and friends who have never stopped believing in him. Looking forward, Olawan sees himself one day training other aspiring equestrians through his masterclass training classes. Just as the support of others allowed him to live out his dream, he also wishes to do the same for others who want to succeed as an equestrian.
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