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Afghan Athletes Train for Beijing Olympic

Afghanistan will once again send a delegation of athletes to the Olympics, These courageous athletes have braved insecurity to train around the clock and represent their country on the global stage. Rohullah and Habib Nikpah are brothers who will both be competing for medals in taekwondo; Masood Azizi is a runner, and ran in the 2004 games in Athens; runner Ms. Mehboba Andyar will compete in the 1,500- and 3,000-meter events.

The Afghan Olympic team has become a symbol of Afghanistan’s renewed vigor and commitment to internationalism. Sayed Mahamood Zia Dashti, the vice president of Afghanistan’s national Olympic committee hopes that Afghanistan will be taking it’s first Olympic medal home from China this year. "Since our taekwondo player Nesar Ahmad Bahawi got the first ever silver medal in an international taekwondo event in Beijing in 2007, we have enough reason to expect the first ever Olympic medal especially on taekwondo for cheering up people in this war-torn country," Mr. Dashti said.

19 year old Mahboba Ahdyar is the Afghan Olympic team’s only female athlete. A middle-distance runner, Ahdyar spent years training for her chance on the world’s supreme athletic stage. In spite of the change in Afghanistan’s political fortunes, Afghanistan’s only female Olympian has faced many challenges. She faces daily taunts from her more conservative neighbors, vicious rumors about her character, and even death threats from extremists. Ms. Ahdyar had to abandon her cell phone when the number was leaked and the death threats became almost constant. In spite of this, Ms. Ahdyar remains committed to her Olympic dreams. She cites support from her family as the key to her resilience saying, "My father, mother and brother all support and encourage me; that is why I am here now." Many women like Mahboba are transforming Afghan society through their desire for change and their resilience in fighting for the rights they have gained since the fall of the Taliban.

Running in modest clothing and a headscarf, Ms Ahdyar is a symbol of gender equity and national unity. Ms. Ahdyar recognized her unique role as a symbol of Muslim women saying, "I will not take off my scarf in China when I race because it is symbol of Muslim women."

As the eyes of the world turn to Beijing, Afghanistan hopes to bring home the gold.


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