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From terror to triumph: 5 athletes from Afghanistan who left the country to fulfil their sporting dreams

We take a look at some of the bravehearts who took that leap of faith to stake a claim to their dreams.

Olympics and Paralympics Refugee Teams
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Olympics and Paralympics Refugee Teams (Source: The Hindu, UNHCR)

By

Rajdeep Saha

Updated: 2021-09-09T11:21:21+05:30

The war-torn country of Afghanistan has always seen its citizens leave their land and escape the inevitable terror. Fulfilling one's dreams has always been a distant concept, especially for women, when the Taliban gained control. Those with aspirations of being athletes and representing their country proudly have often shunned these dreams for the sake of themselves and their families. Even in today's political climate, as the militant group takes over the country, we see sportspersons desperately trying to catch a ride away from the hellhole, only so they can continue their passion. We take a look at some of these athletes who have been able to escape horrific circumstances and gone on to become the athlete they always wanted to be.

Masomah Ali Zada


Source: Eurosport

Like many others, Masomah and her family left Afghanistan and went to France in 2017. They settled down as refugees in the city of Lille. Threats from the Taliban is what led Masomah and her cycling friends to flee to France. After years of training, she earned a spot to be on the Olympic Refugee Team that made its debut at the Rio Olympics. Ali might have finished 25th in her event at the Tokyo games but her participation alone has given a sliver of hope to women all around the world, especially in Afghanistan.

Abbas Karimi


Source: Olympics

At the young age of 16, Abbas fled the country ravaged by constant threats and moved to Turkey. Born without both arms, life wasn't always easy for him. But once he found his love for swimming, he flourished in the sport while he was in Turkey. Lacking proper documentation to further compete in international competitions, former wrestling coach Mike Ives offered his help. Ives was supporting the refugee athletes at that time and helped Karimi to settle down in the US. The para-swimmer made history with his silver-winning performance at the Para World Championships 2017. Recently he was selected to be a part of the Refugee Paralympic Team which made its debut at the Tokyo games.

Nadia Nadim


Source: FootTheBall

The 33-year old footballer has seen it all from being an Afghan refugee to representing the Danish team. At the age of 11, her family had to leave the country after her father lost his life at the hands of the Taliban. Moving from one country to another, the fear-stricken family had finally arrived in Denmark. This country became Nadim's home and since then, she has grown to become one of the most celebrated players in women's football. After winning the league with Paris-Saint German, she moved to Racing Louisville FC based in Kentucky. She continues to be a role model for all the women aspiring to become footballers and athletes.

Nigara Shaheen


Source: Al Jazeera

Like others, Shaheen had fled Afghanistan and crossed the border to Pakistan. She was only six months old when she was carried over to Peshawar. Now, the 28-year old judoka recently made her Olympic debut with the Olympic Refugee team. After years of bullying and threats, she had finally realised her dream of participating in the games. With Paris Olympics only three years away, she aims to give her best ever performance there.

Abdullah Sediqi


Source: Olympics

He escaped the armed gangs of Afghanistan on foot. After endless walks, he had finally arrived at Belgium where he continued his training in refugee camps. He fell in love with Taekwondo when he was 8 years old. Even while being in Afghanistan, he made the sport his own and won many honours. This year, he made his Olympic debut with the Refugee team and fulfilled his dream. His story is one of perseverance and unrivalled spirit that is sure to inspire others to go ahead and make their wishes come true.

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