At just 23, Zakia Khudadadi was primed to make history as Afghanistan’s first female Paralympian next week. Sadly, since the Taliban takeover of Kabul on Sunday, she is now trapped in her home country of more than 38 million people.
Khudadadi is one of two Afghan Paralympian athletes and was due to compete in taekwondo, however the entire Afghanistan delegation is now contained.
The Chef de Mission for the Afghanistan Paralympic Committee told Telegraph Sport that the current situation has “…left the Afghan nation speechless and have shattered many dreams and hopes for peace and prosperity in the country.”
“The National Paralympic Committee of Afghanistan’s team was due to fly out to Tokyo 2020 to compete in the Paralympic Games,” Arian Sadiqi said. “But, unfortunately due to the current upheaval going on in Afghanistan, Zakia Khudadadi and the team could not leave Kabul in time.”
Fellow taekwondo competitor Hossain Rasouli, 21, is also unable to compete in Tokyo.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) confirmed the news when a spokesperson announced “Regrettably, National Paralympic Committee Afghanistan will no longer participate in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.”
“Due to the serious ongoing situation in the country, all airports are closed and there is no way for them to travel to Tokyo,” the IPC spokesperson said. “We hope the team and officials remain safe and well during this difficult time.”
A mere six days ago, Khudadadi posted a video to the Paralympic Games’ Twitter account showing her training for her event. In a separate interview, she described her happiness and excitement.
“This is the first time that a female athlete will be representing Afghanistan at the Games and I’m so happy,” she said.
“I just want to be there with the other athletes from the world and give my best. It is an opportunity to show my ability and I will be so proud to stand with all of those athletes.”
“I was thrilled after I received the news that I have got a wild card to compete at the Games,” she said.
In 2016, Khudadadi won the first Para-Taekwondo Championships held in Egypt. It was only in 1996 when Afghan athletes first competed in the Paralympic Games.