Ten-year-old Amer Ali has been dodging bombs and bullets once a week to get to the only heated 50-metre swimming pool in Baghdad. His fortitude has earned him a berth in the Iraqi swimming squad and seen him living his dream these past few days. On Saturday, Amer will return to his war-torn country. The youngest swimmer, and athlete taking part at these games, Amer looks bewildered by all the attention as he emerges from the pool after setting a personal best in the men's 100m backstroke. At first he is hesitant to answer questions as his English is limited. But he gains confidence when his coach, Mohammed Sarmad, turns up to help translate an amazing story of courage and determination by a young boy trying to bring glory to his war-ravaged country. 'It is my dream one day to win a gold medal for Iraq. I want to be a champion like them,' says Amer, pointing to the top Chinese and Japanese swimmers who tower over his slight frame. 'I'm very happy that today I was able to set my best time. I want to keep improving.' Amer, who turned 10 only three months ago, clipped almost one second from his previous time of one minute and 19 seconds for the 100m backstroke. All the hard work of the past nine months is paying off for the boy from Baghdad who is part of a three-strong Iraq swimming squad - his teammates are 12 and 14. Iraq is taking part at the Asian Games for the first time in 20 years. Sport in Iraq has more than its share of worries. This year alone, Ghanim Ghudayer, a member of the Olympic team, was kidnapped; the coach of the national wrestling team, Mohammed Sahib, has been murdered; Jamal Abdel Karim, the president of the Iraqi taekwondo federation, was also snatched by gunmen and 15 members of the national taekwondo team were kidnapped earlier this year. Last Sunday, the bullet-ridden body of Hadib Majhoul, a member of the Iraqi soccer federation, was found. He had also been kidnapped by gunmen. 'It has been very difficult for him [Amer] to get here,' says Sarmad. 'The situation in Baghdad is terrible, not only for athletes, but for everyone.' And when Amer gets to the pool in the capital safely, some days he finds it closed because there is no heating. At an age when swimmers from other countries are taking part in school carnivals or local meets, Amer is competing against Asia's best in the second biggest multi-sports event in the world. Swimming's governing body, Fina, does not have an age limit. Having seen the outside world for the first time, Amer, like any other young kid, wants more. 'I would like to train in another country so I can keep improving myself. But now I look forward to going back home to my family,' he says. Amer is the eldest of three brothers. He says his father is in business. He doesn't elaborate. For one so young, Amer has a mature take on the divisive nature of politics splitting his country. Asked what his faith is - Sunni or Shia, he responds quickly to his coach: 'It does not matter what faith I am. I'm a Muslim and an Iraqi.' With his charge still bare-bodied and trembling from his efforts in the pool, his coach wants to end the interview. One last question. Pointing to his left arm, which is badly scarred by burning, I ask how that happened. Amer smiles, and says there is no story in his injury. 'Two years ago I was accidentally injured when I spilled boiling water on my arm. Nothing more,' he says looking at the huge scar on his arm as he departs. He leaves behind the feeling he would gladly give his left arm if he could stop the violence that has scarred his country and killed thousands of Iraqis. His illuminating presence has put these games in true perspective. Number of the Day: 1:18.10 This was Amer's game effort in the heats of the 100m backstroke. He finished last, way behind the rest of the field. But it was his best time, and he was a winner all the way.