• The San Juan Daily Star

2 Paralympians who were evacuated from Afghanistan arrive in Tokyo

By Motoko Rich

Two athletes who were evacuated from Afghanistan last week landed in Japan on Saturday to participate in the Paralympics in Tokyo.

Zakia Khudadadi, 22, will compete in taekwondo, a sport that is making its Paralympics debut, and Hossain Rasouli, 26, will run in a men’s 400-meter event.

After evacuating from Afghanistan, the athletes spent a week in Paris training at the National Institute of Sport Expertise and Performance.

“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,” Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee, said in a statement.

Khudadadi, who will compete in the under-49 kilogram category in taekwondo Thursday, will be the first woman to take part in the Paralympics for Afghanistan since the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece. Hossain had been scheduled to run Saturday but will now run in a 400-meter event Friday.

Before the Games opened last Tuesday, organizers said the athletes would not be able to travel to Tokyo because of the chaos following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. A volunteer for the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee carried the Afghan flag into the opening ceremonies.

Rumors of the whereabouts of the Afghan athletes spread all week. As recently as Saturday morning, when asked if there was still a chance they could travel to Tokyo, Paralympics spokesperson Craig Spence said, “The door could be open, it could be closed, it could be half-open.”

In a statement, the International Paralympic Committee thanked the 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” for bringing the athletes to Japan.

In a statement, Arian Sadiqi, head of the mission of the Afghan Paralympic Team, said, “I strongly believe that, through the Paralympic Movement and the Paralympic Games, we all can deliver the positive message that peaceful coexistence is best for humanity, that we should celebrate our differences knowing that we have more in common than that which divides us, and that we should keep and cherish peace because quarrels and negative feeling only destroy humankind.”

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