One of the two Afghan Paralympic athletes who escaped Kabul in the midst of the Taliban takeover has made an appearance in Tokyo, competing in Tuesday’s long-jump event.
Hossain Rasouli fled Kabul along with compatriot Zakia Khudadadi last week in what was described as a “harrowing” journey in which they gained access to the chaotic Kabul airport, reportedly with help from the Australian military and other humanitarian organizations.
From there, the pair eventually ended up in Paris before traveling on to Tokyo, where they arrived at the weekend.
Good news at last. Afghan athletes Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli have arrived in Japan. Zakia will be the first women Afghan athlete to compete in the Paralympics since 2004. #Tokyo2020pic.twitter.com/ahLVFFE7Yz
— Melanie Brock (@melaniebrockjpn) August 28, 2021
Both have been kept out of the glare of the media by Olympic officials, but Rasouli took to the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Tuesday for the men’s long-jump event.
The 26-year-old had originally been due to compete in the 100m T47 event, but arrived too late and so had been placed in a 400m race later this week.
However, Rasouli declined the suggestion and instead opted for the long jump – despite only having 90 minutes to practice on Monday.
Rasouli, who had his left hand amputated after being wounded in a landmine explosion, finished last in the event – ending a distant 3 meters behind Cuban gold medal winner Robiel Yankiel Sol Cervantes.
However, in the Afghan’s case it was the taking part which many will say mattered most, considering his ordeal in escaping his homeland.
Rasouli did not speak to the media, but fellow competitor Roderick Townsend of the US, who won silver, said he “couldn’t help but to feel joy for him.”
“We get so caught up in our personal lives, and I am here complaining about a silver medal and we have somebody making their way across the world to be able to do something we all love to do,” Townsend was quoted as saying.
“That says so much about what the Paralympic Games really means and what it stands for.”
Rasouli’s fellow escapee Khudadadi – who had issued passionate video pleas to be evacuated from the country – is set to compete later this week in the women’s 44-49kg taekwondo event, should she make weight.
Khudadadi will become the first female athlete to represent her country at the Paralympics since the Athens Games in 2004.
It’s not yet clear where the pair will go once the Games formally close on September 5.