Tokyo 2020 – Abbas Karimi “I have learned that life is beautiful”
“When I die, I want people to know that Abbas Karimi, without arms, he never gave up on his dreams and his goals.”
The Afghani Paralympian butterfly swimmer did not win a medal but he won hearts all over the world. He fled the Taliban at 16 through Iran and Turkey to settle in the USA.
When Abbas was born without arms and diagnosed with congenital limb deficiency, his parents were upset, and he shared his story with CNN: “They cried so much and were worried about my future and how I could take care of myself. But they raised me like a normal child.”
At 13 Abbas tried swimming in a pool built by his brother and improved very fast using his leg and foot strength. He was abused by bullies but they were easy compared to dealing with the Taliban and at 16 he and his family fled through the Iranian Zagros Mountains to Turkey where he moved between four different refugee camps.
In Turkey he won two national championships but could not compete at international level without a passport. Then luck intervened when Mike Ives, the man Karimi calls “My American father”, saw him swimming on Facebook and arranged for him to train in the USA.
Coach Mike Ives is in awe of Karimi’s determination saying: “I can picture him in a Marvel movie…I could see him as a superhero, kind of a mixture of Aquaman, Superman & Spiderman with all his abilities.”
Now 24, the Paralympics flag bearer has overcome the death of his father in 2019 to make it to Tokyo. And he has a message for disabled athletes around the world:
“I know every disabled person in this world, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have some part of your leg or your arm, but you have your brain, your heart, and you have to stand up and fight for it.
“No matter what we are going through, no matter how life is difficult and so hard, I have learned that life is beautiful, and it’s worth it to put yourself in every risk to achieve your goals and dreams and be the person who you are.”
And regardless of where he is in the world, Abbas has found his special place – the pool:
“This is my freedom and I feel reborn every time I jump into the water.”
Go well Abbas!
Image source: Paralympics Tokyo 2020