Afghanistan’s Olympics

afghflagAfghanistan first attended the Olympic Games in Berlin, in 1936. Since then it is the 14th time Afghanistan appears in the Games. Despite many years of conflict and war showing no signs of ending, the Afghans have made three consecutive appearances at the Summer games, although Afghanistan has never competed in the Winter Olympics.  Three athletes, one woman and two men, represented Afghanistan in Rio. Sprinters Kimia Yusufi and Abdul Wahab Zahiri competed in the field of 100 and 200 meters, and judoka Mohammad Tawfiq Bakhshi also represented his nation.

The participants from Afghanistan had to pass a preparatory tournament or meet individual norms set by the IOC to be qualified for the Rio Games. All “small” sports nations like Afghanistan receive a number of special invitation from the IOC. Kimia Yusufi received one of them. Abdul Wahab Zahiri and Yusufi, born to an Afghan refugee family in Iran, had already competed and won medals in several regional competitions. Zahiri had only participated in one international competition, the 2016  South Asian games in India.

Apart from the national teams, for the first time in these games, a team of refugees from several countries was assembled. Although Afghans make up one of the largest groups among the worldwide refugee population, there was no Afghan participant in that team maybe because the IOC insisted that the chosen candidates should be close to the Olympic norm in the particular discipline, a condition no current Afghan athlete fulfilled.

Rohullah Nekpai was the first Afghan Olympic medal winner and the only one so far. Afghanistan claimed no medal with its three athletes and one of the smallest delegation in Rio 2016.

– by Ali S.D.