Two Afghan Paralympians Arrive in Tokyo for Paralympics After Evacuation from Home Country

Tokyo 2020 paralympic games

Two Afghan Paralympians Arrive in Tokyo for Paralympics After Evacuation from Home Country

Following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, it looked like the Afghan Paralympians would be prevented from going to Tokyo for the Paralympic Games because of border and safety issues. The regime change, which has occurred since the Tokyo Olympics, has cast doubt on Afghanistan’s future participation in world sport since the Taliban refused to allow any organized athletics during their previous reign from 1996 to 2001. In particular, the Taliban have a very poor record on women’s rights, so the future of women’s sport in that country is especially concerning.

But the world of sports received welcome news Saturday when the International Paralympic Committee reported that two Afghan Paralympians, Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli, had arrived in Tokyo and would compete, Khudadadi in taekwondo and Rasouli in track and field. The two were evacuated to Paris last week and trained there before heading to Tokyo to represent their country.

No Afghan swimmers will compete in the Paralympics. At the Olympics, the only representative from Afghanistan was Fahim Anwari, who was 69th in the men’s 50 freestyle in 27.67.

Read the full IPC press release below:

On Saturday (28 August) evening, the Afghan athletes Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli were warmly welcomed to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Village by IPC President Andrew Parsons and IPC Athletes’ Council Chairperson Chelsey Gotell.

Following their safe evacuation from Afghanistan last weekend, the two athletes spent the week in Paris, France, at the National Institute of Sport Expertise and Performance (INSEP), the French sports ministry’s high performance training centre. On Friday (27 August) evening the pair boarded an 11-hour flight from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to Tokyo Haneda Airport before being transported to the Paralympic Village.

Andrew Parsons, IPC President, said: “Twelve days ago we were informed that the Afghan Paralympic Team could not travel to Tokyo, a move that broke the hearts of all involved in the Paralympic Movement and left both athletes devastated. That announcement kick started a major global operation that led to their safe evacuation from Afghanistan, their recuperation by France, and now their safe arrival in Tokyo.

“We always knew there was a remote chance both athletes could participate at Tokyo 2020 which is why the Afghan flag was paraded at Tuesday’s Opening Ceremony. Like all the athletes here at Tokyo 2020, we never gave up hope and to now have Zakia and Hossain in the Paralympic Village alongside 4,403 other Paralympians shows the remarkable power of sport to bring people together in peace.

“Our number one priority has and always will be the health and well-being of both athletes. Over the last 12 days, Zakia and Hossain have continued to express their absolute desire to come and compete at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

“Thanks to the outstanding efforts of several Governments, the Centre for Sport and Human Rights, Human Rights for All, the French Paralympic Committee, the British Paralympic Association, World Taekwondo, Zakia and Hossain are now in Tokyo to fulfil their dreams, sending out a strong message of hope to many others around the world.

“We will continue to work closely with Zakia, Hossain and the team’s Chef de Mission to ensure they receive all the care and support they need both during and after the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.”

Chelsey Gotell, IPC Athletes’ Council Chairperson, said: “On behalf of their fellow 4,403 Paralympic athletes competing at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, I welcome Zakia and Hossain to the Paralympic Village. This is their home for the next nine days and as a community we are 100 per cent behind them.

“Both athletes have been extremely clear that after years of training they wanted to compete on the biggest stage of all, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The fact that so many authorities have combined to make this possible is truly wonderful.

“Since leaving Afghanistan last week they have received excellent care from the French authorities and the team at INSEP. Throughout and going forward the most important thing is Zakia and Hossain’s physical and mental wellbeing. We have been reassured that they arrive in Tokyo ready to do what they have trained years for.

“They will have the full support of the Paralympic family while with us. We know Zakia and Hossain will want to do themselves and their families proud. The stage is theirs to show the world the power of sport.”

When she competes in the women’s K44 -49kg weight category in taekwondo on Thursday 2 September, Zakia will be Afghanistan’s first female athlete to compete at the Paralympic Games since Athens 2004. Hossain, who was originally due to participate in the men’s 100m T47 on Saturday 28 August, will now line-up in the heats of the men’s 400m T47 athletics event on Friday 3 September.