Written by Daimon Lillith
Published on September 5, 2011
Rohullah Nikpai, who is an ethnic Hazara, was born on June 15, 1987 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Because of the instability and war in Afghanistan, his family fled to Iran, and therefore, he was raised in an Iranian refugee camp. He was drawn to martial arts at a very young age. He returned to Kabul in 2004, a few years after the Taliban government was removed.
He became a national hero in the Beijing Olympics of 2008, defeating who was then the reigning taekwondo world champion, Juan Antonio Ramos (of Spain). Nikpai earned the bronze medal for taekwondo in the 58kg category. His victory – the first Olympic victory for Afghanistan – followed more than 30 years of war in the country. As a result, Rohullah Nikpai is now endeared as a symbol of national pride.
Following this achievement, Nikpai went on to earn another bronze medal; this time in the World Taekwondo Championships of May of 2011. He won this medal in the featherweight division. Nikpai’s combined achievements have at the very least inspired record numbers of Afghans to become students of taekwondo. Although at his greatest, he has become a symbol of hope and strength in a war-torn, impoverished nation. And even with very little funding from the Afghan government – Rohullah Nikpai plans to be a source of inspiration for more Afghans in the near future.
After returning from China, Nikpai got married, and he even started his own engineering company in Afghanistan. As of today, Rohullah Nikpai is still in training, with aspirations to compete in the 2012 London games. His accomplishments would be considered exceptional in any country, no doubt. Although considering the background of poverty and social unrest that Nikpai came from, his achievements are all the more noteworthy.