Afghanistan's two Paralympic athletes have arrived in the athletes' village in Tokyo and will compete next week in their events, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said on August 28.
The two-person team of Zakia Khudadadi, a tae kwon do athlete, and Hossain Rasouli, a track athlete, flew from Kabul to Paris before continuing to Tokyo, the IPC said.
The pair were warmly welcomed to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic village, the IPC said in a statement.
They had been due to arrive in Tokyo on August 17 but were unable to leave Afghanistan after the Taliban swept to power.
The possibility that she would not make it out of Kabul prompted Khudadadi to make a video appealing for help to leave so she could take part in the Paralympics.
"I request from you all, that I am an Afghan woman and as a representative of Afghan women ask for you to help me," Khudadadi said in her video, which Reuters said it had received from the Afghanistan Paralympic Committee.
Khudadadi will be Afghanistan’s first female athlete to compete at the Paralympics since the Athens Paralympics in 2004. She will compete in the women’s tae kwon do 44-49-kilogram weight category. Rasouli will compete in the men’s 400 meters.
IPC President Andrew Parsons said in the IPC statement that the IPC was told 12 days ago that the Afghan Paralympic team could not travel to Tokyo.
The announcement “broke the hearts of all involved in the Paralympic movement and left both athletes devastated,” he said.
But thanks to a “major global operation” he said they were evacuated from Afghanistan and have now arrived safely in Tokyo for the 2020 Paralympics, which began on August 24 and last through September 5.
Chelsey Gotell, the IPC Athletes' Council chairperson, said that both athletes have said that after years of training they wanted to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
“The fact that so many authorities have combined to make this possible is truly wonderful,” she said, according to the IPC statement.
“On behalf of their fellow 4,403 Paralympic athletes competing at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, I welcome Zakia and Hossain to the Paralympic Village,” she said. “This is their home for the next nine days, and as a community we are 100 percent behind them.”