Kabul: The first Afghan female to compete at an Olympics Games hopes to act as inspiration to other women in her country.
Tahmina Kohistani, the 23-year-old runner, may not have won a medal — she was the slowest of all the women to compete in the 100m, despite her personal best time of 14.42 seconds in the preliminary round — but her appearance at the Olympics was about more than that.
“By attending the London Olympics I have given the message to all Afghan girls that they are talented, they can pursue sport, they can attend international competitions and above all they can earn honour to their country,” she said on her return home on Tuesday.
“Although I could not win a medal, I was able to represent the Afghan women and I am proud to be the first Afghan girl to participate in the Olympic Games.”
In conservative Afghanistan, it was unthinkable, 11 years ago when the Taliban regime was in power, that a woman would participate in a sports event.
The fundamentalist regime, which collapsed in late 2001 with the US military intervention, had banned schools for girls and confined women to their homes. They also imposed a series of restrictions on male athletes, including insistence on sporting a long beard and wearing long trousers while playing.
In Ghazi Stadium, the national sports arena in Kabul where athletes train daily to improve their skills and ability, Taliban militants during their six-year reign often exacted punishment, including execution and the chopping off of hands and feet of alleged criminals, each Friday.
The six-member Afghan team to the London Games comprised Rohullah Nikpa and Nisar Ahmad Bahawi in taekwondo, athletes Masoud Azizi and Kohistani, boxer Aimal Faisal and judoka Ajmal Faizi Zada representing the war-torn, rugged country.
In the men’s 68kg category, the Afghan taekwondo player Nikpa earned a bronze medal — only the second of its kind earned by Afghanistan.
The team returned home on Tuesday morning and their excited countrymen extended red-carpet welcomes to Nikpa and the rest of the team as thousands of people, including government officials and lawmakers, waited in a long queue at Kabul International Airport to receive the Olympic hero and other members of the contingent.
“I would try my best to win gold medal in the next Olympic Games,” Nikpa said, surrounded by hundreds of his admirers.