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Palestinian swimmer glides past obstacles to reach Rio Games

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Palestinian Olympics swimmer Mary Al-Atrash
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Palestinian Olympics swimmer Mary Al-Atrash
Palestinian swimmer Mary Al-Atrash, 22, who will represent Palestine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, trains in a swimming pool in Beit Sahour, near the West Bank town of Bethlehem June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Palestinian swimmer Mary Al-Atrash (R), 22, who will represent Palestine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, sits with her grandmother in Beit Sahour, near the West Bank town of Bethlehem, June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Palestinian swimmer Mary Al-Atrash (2nd L), 22, who will represent Palestine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, sits with her family in Beit Sahour, near the West Bank town of Bethlehem June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
The winning medals of Palestinian swimmer Mary Al-Atrash, 22, who will represent Palestine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, are pictured at her house in Beit Sahour, near the West Bank town of Bethlehem, June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Palestinian swimmer Mary Al-Atrash, 22, who will represent Palestine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, leaves with her father after training in a swimming pool in Beit Sahour, near the West Bank town of Bethlehem, June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
The swimsuit of Palestinian swimmer Mary Al-Atrash, 22, who will represent Palestine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, is pictured at her house in Beit Sahour, near the West Bank town of Bethlehem, June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
Palestinian swimmer Mary Al-Atrash, 22, who will represent Palestine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, is helped by her father as she trains in a swimming pool in Beit Sahour, near the West Bank town of Bethlehem June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
Palestinian swimmer Mary Al-Atrash, 22, who will represent Palestine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, trains in a swimming pool in Beit Sahour, near the West Bank town of Bethlehem, June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
Palestinian swimmer Mary Al-Atrash, 22, who will represent Palestine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, speaks with her father as she trains in a swimming pool in Beit Sahour, near the West Bank town of Bethlehem, June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
Palestinian swimmer Mary Al-Atrash, 22, who will represent Palestine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, leaves after training in a swimming pool in Beit Sahour, near the West Bank town of Bethlehem June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
Palestinian swimmer Mary Al-Atrash, 22, who will represent Palestine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, train in a swimming pool in Beit Sahour, near the West Bank town of Bethlehem June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
Palestinian swimmer Mary Al-Atrash, 22, who will represent Palestine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, trains in a swimming pool in Beit Sahour, near the West Bank town of Bethlehem, June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Palestinian swimmer Mary Al-Atrash, 22, who will represent Palestine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, prays at The Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
Palestinian swimmer Mary Al-Atrash (R), 22, who will represent Palestine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, looks at candles as she prays at The Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Palestinian swimmer Mary Al-Atrash, 22, who will represent Palestine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, walks at The Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
Palestinian swimmer Mary Al-Atrash, 22, who will represent Palestine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, walks past the Israeli barrier in the West Bank town of Bethlehem June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
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BETHLEHEM, West Bank, June 28 (Reuters) - Palestinian swimmer Mary al-Atrash can't wait to make a splash at the Rio Olympics in August, but participation, rather than a podium finish, is probably the best she can hope for.

Atrash competes in the 50 meters freestyle but her best time of 29.91 seconds is more than four seconds slower than the Olympic qualifying threshold of 25.28 seconds, in itself almost two seconds behind the world record.

SEE ALSO: Synchronized swimmers hope for hometown success in Brazil

Atrash will be one of six Palestinians competing in Rio and the delegation will be the largest Palestine has sent to the Games since its first participation in the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. Five competitors appeared in London in 2012.

"I am so happy, representing Palestine in competitions is a dream for any Palestinian athlete, especially the Olympics," Atrash told Reuters.

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 the Palestinian territories and she has to settle for a 25-meter pool.

SEE MORE: Check out full coverage of Rio 2016

She also has no training partners and relies only on her coach, Musa Nawawra, with occasional travel to competitions abroad.

"Preparations are going well, and considering the resources we have... we are able to achieve our best and set goals and ambitions," Atrash said.

Nawawra 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," he said.

Use of superior Israeli facilities and training partners in nearby Jerusalem where there are several Olympic-sized pools and many swimmers, has not been possible due to the long-standing conflict with Israel.

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 by in dressage by equestrianist Christian Zimmermann and in judo by Simon Yacoub, both of whom have dual German and Palestinian nationality. (Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Dominic Evans)

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