Female sprinter to represent ‘stolen dreams’ of Afghanistan women at the Olympics

Kimia Yousofi was the flag bearer for Afghanistan at Tokyo 2020 and will represent them again this time

Tuesday 09 July 2024 08:27
Kimia Yousofi will represent Afghanistan at the 2024 Olympics in Paris
Kimia Yousofi will represent Afghanistan at the 2024 Olympics in Paris (Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Australia-based Kimia Yousofi has been included in Afghanistan’s team for the Paris Olympics and the sprinter says she will be representing the “stolen dreams and aspirations” of Afghan women back home who are being denied the chance to take part in sport.

The Taliban have restricted women’s access to parks and gyms since seizing power in August 2021, prompting women athletes like Yousofi to flee the country to escape prosecution.

The International Olympic Committee announced last month a gender-equal team of six athletes would represent Afghanistan in Paris but no Taliban official would be allowed.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) confirmed Yousofi, Afghanistan’s flag bearer at Tokyo 2020, has been selected for what will be her third appearance at the Games.

Kimia Yousofi will represent Afghanistan in Paris
Kimia Yousofi will represent Afghanistan in Paris (Getty Images)

“It’s an honour to represent the girls of my homeland once again,” Yousofi said in an AOC statement on Tuesday.

“Girls and women who have been deprived of basic rights, including education, which is the most important one.

“I represent the stolen dreams and aspirations of these women.”

When asked for comment, Atal Mushwanay, spokesman for the Taliban government’s sports directorate, said: “We have no opinion.”

Yousofi, 28, thanked the AOC and also expressed her gratitude to Afghanistan’s Olympic committee, whose top officials are in exile, for “giving us the chance to relive and pursue our dreams”.

Yonus Popalzay, the Afghanistan Olympic Committee president, said it was a proud moment for the country.

“We are delighted having three female athletes for the first time in an Olympic Games,” he said. “We highly appreciate AOC for the support extended to Kimia Yousofi.”

AOC Chief Executive Officer Matt Carroll praised Yousofi’s bravery.

“Her story is one of inspiration for women and girls in Afghanistan and anywhere in the world, who are denied basic rights, including the right to freely practice sport,” he said.

Yousofi’s coach John Quinn will be the Afghanistan team’s head coach in Paris.

“On the track she has improved enormously technically since coming here and she has a great squad around her,” Quinn said.

“But when you consider everything else she has had to juggle – training, a new language, getting her family here, all those things, she has been amazing.

“Her efforts have certainly inspired the other squad members. Now she finds herself on the world stage again in Paris,” he added.

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