• Afghan athlete aims for Paralympic glory

Afghan athlete aims for Paralympic glory

31 August 2012

Mohammad Fahim Rahimi, Afghanistan's sole Paralympic athlete, is one of the many casualties of the Afghan conflict.

Part of his right leg was blown off by a Soviet landmine in 1994.  Afterwards, the young Rahimi took up powerlifting to help regain his physical and mental strength.

Training in the gymIn 2008, he represented Afghanistan at the Beijing Paralympics, although he failed to win a medal. 

He's now hoping to rectify that in London, where he's competing in the men's powerlifting event.

Rahimi told Reuters news agency "I want to make my country proud, to bring back a medal."

He's got this far despite the limited financial and logistical support available for disabled athletes in Afghanistan. 

The powerlifter trains in a Kabul gym without the help of a coach.  He walks with the help of a prosthetic leg provided by the Red Cross.

There are a large number of disabled people in Afghanistan.  This is due not only to the ongoing conflict and presence of landmines, but also to poor healthcare, malnutrition and preventable diseases like polio.  The number of trained physiotherapists available in the country is far from sufficient to meet their needs.

Preparing for the opening ceremonyIn the past, lack of facilities and financial support, along with discrimination, has meant many of Afghanistan's disabled have been socially isolated.  Many are unemployed.  Some have to beg on the streets in order to live.

A number of non governmental organisations are now involved in projects to improve their lives.  Work is also underway to help disabled Afghans enjoy the benefits of sport.  Earlier this year the International Committee of the Red Cross, in collaboration with the Afghan Paralympic Committee, organised the country's first-ever national wheelchair basketball tournament. 

Alberto Cairo, head of the ICRC's physical rehabilitation programme in Afghanistan, has stressed how effective sports can be in helping disabled Afghans reintegrate into society.  "It changes the way they see themselves - and the way people see them" he said.

Pictures courtesy of Afghanistan's Paralympic Committee