KABUL, November 22, 2017 – For the first time, a Winter Olympic Games will have among its participants two athletes from a war- zone nation like Afghanistan. Two Afghan skiers have been selected for the PyeongChang 2018 Games, marking the debut if the nation’s flag and its athletes at a Winter Olympics.
There are no ski lifts in the remote region of Bamyan in central Afghanistan, no groomed slopes, no fancy ski huts and the skiers arduously trek up mountains to get their downhill thrills.
But the dream of being the first national winter Olympians will come true in early 2018 for Afghan skiers Sayed Alishah Farhang and Sajjad Husaini, who are training for PyeongChang at the Swiss resort St Moritz.
Afghanistan Olympic Committee President Mohammad Zahir Aghbar registered the skiers on the sidelines of the Association of National Olympic Committees meeting in Prague late October 2017.
"At the meeting which we had with the head of Korea's Olympic Committee we registered two Afghan athletes for the Winter Olympics," Aghbar told Afghanistan media after receiving confirmation from South Korean Olympic Committee.
Afghanistan Ski Federation chief Mohammad Aslam Noori in an interview with ASJF highlighted the importance of that the pair’s selection marking the first time in history that Afghanistan would take part in the Winter Olympic Games.
“Both skiers are training at St Moritz in Switzerland, which hosted this year's International Ski Federation World Championships and was the host of the Winter Olympic in 1928 and 1948," Aslam Noori told ASJF.
For the two skiers in particular, it is their humble beginnings that have provided a platform for competing on the global stage, Gen. Aghbar told local media.
"We want to represent Afghanistan in a different way, to show other countries that Afghanistan does not represent only war," one of the two skiers, Sajjad Husaini told ASJF.
He added further that the aim is to be part of the Winter Games in PyeongChang and to bring pride back to the nation at its first ever participation at the event.
“We want to show a positive picture of Afghanistan to the world,” said 27-year-old Farhang said, who began skiing in 2011, at the age of 20.
As confirmed both by the national Olympic Committee President and the Ski Federation chief, Afghanistan has a lot of potential in winter sports, but until now has not been able to participate for a myriad of reasons.
The country has won two Olympic bronze medals at Summer Games, both courtesy of taekwondo athlete Rohullah Nikpai at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, while the latest pride of the nation has been a jiu-jitsu gold medal at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat in September 2017 won by Husain Bakhsh Safari on the first day of the Games.