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Rohullah Nikpai: "I see a bright future for Afghan Taekwondo"

Rohullah Nikpai: "I see a bright future for Afghan Taekwondo"

Interview with the first Olympic medallist in the history of Afghanistan: Rohullah Nikpai (bronze medallist of the -68 kg category al London 2012 and bronze medallist of the -58 kg category at Beijing 2008)
Q. How did you feel when you won your second Olympic bronze in London? Was it really different compared to Beijing’s success?
A. When I won the second medal for my country I felt really happy. Earning an Olympic medal is something very precious and important for a country, specially for mine, because we’ve been through terrible wars and all the world has seen it. Regarding the differences with Beijing, the 2008 Games were my first Olympic experience, so obviously I felt quite different as everything was completely new to me.
Q. Did this second medal have a different impact on both the media and the Afghan population in comparison with Beijing’s one?
A. The impact on the media and on the people of Afghanistan was really different because this was the second time that I attended the Olympic Games, but I am thankful to the Afghan media because they broadcast live all my matches so that all Afghan people were able to watch them. They were all expecting my second medal and praying for it.
Q. And the reception at your arrival to Kabul, was it similar to 4 years before?
A. It was really different. Actually, I’d say it was even better. People’s knowledge of our sport and of the Olympic Games in general has increased significantly if compared with 4 years ago.
Q. What was the key factor that made someone like you, who has lived a terrible war in first person, overcome all difficulties and become a Taekwondo star?
A. To strongly love my country and all Afghan people. They’ve been through too many terrible bloody wars and torture times all along their lives, so my dream was to become a Taekwondo star and make all them happy by winning special medals such as the Olympic ones.

Rohullah Nikpai on his arrival to Kabul after the London Olympics

Q. After two Olympic bronze medals and a third place at the last World Championship, what are your next goals? Do you dream of winning the World title?
A. Of course I do. I always think that I have to get more and better Olympic medals for my country. I don’t want to stand on the lower steps of the podium forever.
Q. Is the Afghan government helping to promote Taekwondo within the country?
A. After I got the first Olympic medal in Afghanistan’s history, the President of the country really appreciated my achievement and decided to promote Taekwondo within the Afghan people to see if more precious medals could be taken to our country.
Q. Have you noticed an increase in the number of Taekwondo practitioners in Afghanistan since you beat Ramos for the bronze at Beijing 2008?
A. Yes, after becoming the first Olympic medallist in the history of Afghanistan, the interest of people for sport in general and Taekwondo in particular considerably increased.

Hamid Karzai, Presient of Afghanistan, giving Nikpai the country´s highest decoration

Q. Are you confident on someone from Afghanistan taking over you in the future at a similar level? Do you see a bright future for Afghan Taekwondo?
A. I must say that since 2008 I’ve faced many compatriots that have the potential to become someone in the world Taekwondo in the future. That’s why I am really optimistic, I see a bright future for Afghan Taekwondo. Our sport has become really popular in the past years and our government is working to promote it within the population.
Q. How do you see yourself in the future? Would you like to still be part of Taekwondo’s family once your career is over?
A. I’d like to see myself as the brightest star of Afghan Taekwondo and spend my time sharing my experiences in this sport with the Afghan Taekwondo players of the future.
Pau Aguilar
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