Mourad Laachraoui is one of the best young taekwondo fighters in the world; the 21-year-old won the 54kg weight class at the European Championships yesterday, and will represent Belgium at the Summer Olympics in August—six months after his brother blew himself up in the Brussels terror attacks that killed 32 people.
Laachraoui, the reigning silver medalist in the Universiade games, is likely still too young to seriously challenge for a medal in Rio this summer; success in 2020 is more likely.
“When we were younger we were close, but as I became more passionate about sport we grew apart,” Laachraoui said of his brother Najim, who authorities believed was a bombmaker for last November’s Paris attacks, and who detonated a suicide belt at the Brussels airport on March 22. Mourad said he and his family hasn’t seen his older brother since he left for Syria in February of 2013.
Two days after the Brussels bombings, Mourad Laachraoui held a press conference to express his sympathy for the victims, and to declare himself “ashamed and sad” over his brother’s actions.
“You don’t choose your family,” Mourad remarked.