BY CHIP DAVIS
PHOTO BY CHIP DAVIS
Amel Younis will represent Palestine at the 2022 World Rowing Championships, Sept. 18-25, in Racice, Czech Republic. An Arab-American and son of a Palestinian refugee, Younis learned to row in the Worcester, Mass., public-school system, raced on the lightweight crew at Mercyhurst College, and trains at Riverside Boat Club. His coach, Mark Grinberg, is Jewish.
“Amel immediately stood out as someone who is very dedicated and very passionate about his rowing. He’s a tremendously hard worker,” said Grinberg, the high-performance coach at Riverside Boat Club.
The West Bank was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and transferred to the Palestinian Authority through the series of agreements known as the Oslo Accords between 1993 and 1999. Violent conflict between Palestinian factions and Israel continues today.
“I always wanted to represent Palestine; that was always a dream of mine. My father was a refugee, my family members were refugees, and they had been through a lot in their lifetimes,” said Younis, who noticed a lack of Arab-American figures in sports, movies, and popular culture. “I’m in a unique position to be that guy I always wish that I saw. I see an opportunity for me to be that person for other Arabs, Arab-Americans, and Palestinians around the world.”
“When I coach Amel, I see him as someone I value in my life personally, someone I look up to as an athlete. Amel does a lot of things I’m very proud of,” said Grinberg. “Being Jewish, having family in Israel, I think it’s important to understand there’s no route out of conflict unless you understand the people you might have a conflict with.
“We share something that’s larger than us, but we’re just rowers, too. It’s a lot of fun. We’re not trying to make a political statement. We’re both just passionate about rowing and the hard work.”
Younis faces a field of 30 competitors in the men’s lightweight single at Worlds, the second-largest field of the 29 events contested. His path to the 2024 Paris Olympics, if successful, will go through the World Rowing Asia and Oceana qualification regatta.