Afghan woman pursues Olympic dreams despite roadblocks

Sadaf Rahimi, a 17-year-old amateur boxer who plans to compete in the Olympics in London, could complain about what she doesn't have: A ring to train in, proper equipment, high-level coaching.

Instead, the Afghan teenager pursues the sport she loves despite innumerable obstacles. The Taliban banned women from competing in sports, prompting the International Olympic Committee to ban Afghanistan from competing in the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia.

Members of Rahimi's own family, fearful for her safety, have advised her to quit. Despite that, she forges ahead with the dream shared by every amateur boxer, of winning Olympic gold.

She told that she couldn't train for a month because of fears for her safety and that her aunt advised her not to box.

My aunt used to say girls should stay at home and do housework, they shouldn't be going out and playing sports. She would say my actions are not in line with Islam.

A lack of funds in Afghanistan means there is no ring for her and other Afghan women to use to train. Traditional boxing equipment is either old and dilapidated or simply doesn't exist.

The equipment we have is pretty inadequate. I've even had to buy my own boxing socks.

What equipment they have, they have to share because gym space is limited. Women's boxing will be in the Olympics for the first time in 2012, but women have been boxing for years and the state of the game is far more advanced in other countries than it is in Afghanistan.

She said she only gets to train in the gym for an hour a day.

Despite that, Mohammed Saber Sharifi, her coach, told that she and her teammates are working diligently to send a message to the world.

I hope the world can see that Afghan women are breaking down barriers by pursuing their dreams of becoming a professional athlete. We represent this country with pride.

The odds against her winning even a single match are enormous, but Sadaf Rahimi is a winner just for having the courage and the dedication to try. In a country where women are oppressed and treated like second-class citizens, Rahimi is every bit the trailblazer that athletes like Jackie Robinson and Billie Jean King were in this country.

Boxing is a sport filled with rags to riches stories. Few, though, can match this one.

I know for sure she has one new fan.

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