The revolutions that have swept the Middle East have toppled dictators and brought freedom to many. But amongst the rubble, the sportsmen and women of the region have tried to keep their eyes on the prize: London 2012. CNN teamed up with Sports Illustrated to tell the remarkable stories of the athletes who have battled against the odds to follow a distant dream.
Yes, Mr. President —
Sport, like almost everything under the dictatorships of Middle East and North Africa, was under the control and patronage of the president. Anybody who questioned the system was punished.
Army of one —
In 2009 the Tunisian gymnast Wajdi Bouallegue was banned by the government from competing internationally. His crime was to tear up a picture of the now deposed leader Zine al Abidine Ben Ali. Here he is pictured in the shell of the former home of Ben Ali's brother-in-law.
Under the flag —
Bouallegue, one the Arab world's greatest ever gymnasts and the first to qualify for a World Cup, took to the streets to protect his home and city. He will now compete at London 2012.
The fast and the furious —
Amr Seoud is the Arab world's fastest man, yet he is an unknown in Egypt. He was out on the streets in Tahrir Square when the revolution began.
Out of the blocks —
What little funding he had under Hosni Mubarak has been cut to the bone. He trained diligently on Zamalek island in Cairo as the chaos spread around him.
Sky's the limit? —
CNN followed Seoud to a training camp in the U.S. where he is preparing for a shot at the 100 meters sprint, the same event as Usain Bolt.
Fighting back —
Some have overcome even greater hurdles. Ali Khousrof is a judo fighter from Yemen. He was shot in the abdomen during one of the many protests he attended against the regime.
Breaking sweat —
The bullet shattered into 11 pieces and he feared his dreams of reaching London 2012 were over. But after specialist treatment he has come back stronger, vowing to fly the flag for a new Yemen on the world stage.
Libya's future star? —
For others like Libya's Mohammed Tishli, a taekwondo competitor, the dream will have to wait four more years. The revolution that toppled Colonel Gadhafi also took his brother, who had represented Libya at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. But he has vowed to make it in 2016.