After psychological support: Afghan athletes at Paralympics after all

After psychological care
Afghan athletes at the Paralympics

For the first time in 17 years, an athlete from Afghanistan surprisingly takes part in the Paralympics. Taekwondo fighter Zakia Khudadadi and her compatriot Hossain Rasouli were warmly welcomed in Tokyo, as announced by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). IPC President Andrew Parsons was also present at the ceremony in the Olympic Village.

Khudadadi competes in the Taekwondo class from 44 to 49 kilograms on Thursday, her compatriot Rasouli in the 400 meter heats on Friday. According to the IPC, the two Afghan para-athletes had previously been brought from their homeland to Paris. There they were given psychological support.

“Our number one priority has always been and always will be the health and wellbeing of both athletes,” assured Parsons. The Afghan athletes have repeatedly confirmed their “absolute desire” to compete in the Paralympics in Tokyo. He said: “Over the past twelve days Zakia and Houssain have repeatedly expressed their absolute desire to come and take part in the Paralympics.”

The day before the start of the Games, the IPC announced that there would be no Afghan athletes in Japan due to the Taliban’s takeover. The flag of Afghanistan was carried into the stadium by a volunteer at the opening ceremony last Tuesday “as a sign of solidarity”.

Fireworks rose over the arena at the opening ceremony before the para-athletes from 159 nations “landed” to warm music. First, the refugee team moved into the almost empty Olympic Stadium, observing the hygiene and distance rules. And then as a “sign of solidarity” with the Afghan para-athletes who, it was said at the time, could not come to Tokyo because of the Taliban’s takeover, the Afghan flag was the fifth to be carried into the stadium by a volunteer.