Afghan sprinter Kimia Yousofi ready to run at her 3rd Olympics after being selected for Paris Games

SYDNEY (AP) — Afghan sprinter Kimia Yousofi is preparing to compete at her third Olympics after being selected for the Paris Games from her training base in Australia.

Yousofi, Afghanistan’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony for the Olympics in Tokyo, has been living in Australia since 2022.

The Australian Olympic Committee on Tuesday congratulated Yousofi on her selection for the women’s 100-meter sprint.

“It’s an honor to represent the girls of my homeland once again,” she said in a statement released by the Australian committee. “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. Those who don’t have the authority to make decisions as free human beings — they don’t even have the permission to enter a park.”

She said she’s “deeply grateful to all those who have stood by me on this journey and made this possible … who helped us for every step, for coming to Australia and joining together and chasing our dreams and making a new life,”

Yousofi was among the athletes and families who were resettled in Australia, in her case via Iran, after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan and imposed harsh restrictions on women and girls.

Dozens of other Afghan athletes, including members of the women’s cricket and soccer teams, have moved to Australia.

AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said Yousofi’s 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.”

Afghanistan Olympic Committee president Yonus Popalzay said there’d be three women on the team for Paris.

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

The Afghan National Olympic Committee operates outside of Afghanistan to support and encourage athletes.

John Quinn, Yousofi’s Australian-based coach, will travel to the Olympics as head coach of Afghanistan’s track and field team.

He said when he started working with Yousofi they had to communicate via a translation app because they didn’t speak the same language, “so we’ve come a long way in less than two years.”

The Olympics in Paris will be “a Games where she’s not really running for herself, she’s running for women from Afghanistan and she’s showing what’s possible,” Quinn said. “She provides, for them, hope. And she shows what optimism looks like.”

Quinn said Yousofi has improved vastly on the track in a technical sense but also made strides outside of the sports arenas.

“When you consider everything else she has had to juggle — training, a new language, getting her family here, all those things,” he said, “she has been amazing.”


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