Afghanistanâ€™s Rohullah Nikpah celebrates winning his menâ€™s -68kg bronze medal taekwondo match against Britainâ€™s Martin Stamper at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the ExCeL arena August 9, 2012.
Afghan Taekwondo fighter Rohullah Nikpah won bronze in the menâ€™s under-68-kg category at the 2012 Summer Olympic in London. The 25-year-old athlete matched his achievement at the Beijing Games four years ago, where he also won bronze. The two bronzes claimed by the fighter are Afghanistanâ€™s first ever Olympic medals, turning Nikpai into a national hero in the war-torn country. Nikpah went on to receive a personal phone call of congratulation from the war-torn countryâ€™s president, as President Hamid Karzai called Afghanistanâ€™s team in London Friday to congratulate Nikpah and all the Afghan athletes, his office said.
â€œAfghan athletes have shown in recent years that they donâ€™t have less talent than the athletes of other countries and with hard work and effort they can hoist the flag of Afghanistan in the international sports arena,â€ Karzaiâ€™s office said. Nikpahâ€™s victory was greeted with jubilation in a country ravaged by war for three decades, setting social media sites alight with pride.
Thanks to Nikpah, taekwondo has become one of the most popular sports in Afghanistan. Around 25,000 competitors practice in hundreds of clubs around the country, and events with the Afghan fighters in London were shown live on several TV channels.
Nikpahâ€™s Olympic success has been quite unexpected because of his background. The New York Times reported that the athlete lived in a refugee camp in Iran, and returned to Kabul four years before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Even after his return, Nikpah could train only in the early morning and late evening because he had to work as a barber to make ends meet. Nikpai comes from the Hazara ethnic minority, which has long been discriminated against by other groups in Afghanistan and other countries. Before the 2008 Games, the countryâ€™s previous best Olympic finish was a fifth place in wrestling in 1964.