By Nick Paton Walsh and Mitra Mobasherat
“The first time I hit someone it was in my village, I was 11. It was actually my cousin,” she told CNN during a break from training. “Afterwards he said I hit him so hard that I should become a boxer!”
She did just that. A wild card from the Olympic committee has propelled the student towards the London games this summer, a daunting prospect given the modest resources at her disposal.
Special: London 2012
Rahimi and her teammates, including her sister Shabnam, can’t train in a proper boxing ring, because one doesn’t exist in war-torn Afghanistan. Instead dozens of girls and women in the team shuffle around in mismatched uniforms inside a small, dirty improvised gym complete with padded flooring.
“The equipment we have is pretty inadequate. I’ve even had to buy my own boxing socks,” she said.
With sport facilities in short supply in Kabul, the boxing team’s time in this gym is limited.
“We can only train one hour a day, and that’s it,” said Rahimi. “It’s not enough to prepare for London. Other teams around the world train three times a day.”
Rahimi says she would like expert help in Dubai or India to be competitive against more seasoned international fighters.
But this is Afghanistan, where money is too often in all the wrong places. So they’re left hoping for a sponsor to help them out.
“We would like a sponsor with a good name in the world of sports. But more importantly a company that can assist our female athletes in the future, Rahimi’s coach, Mohammed Saber Sharifi, said.
Sharifi, a former male professional boxer and an advocate for women’s rights, believes the world will see Afghanistan in a different light when Rahimi steps into the ring in London.
“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,” he said.