So its official. The Afghan National Women’s team will go to the Asian Games in South Korea this September! This will be the first time that an Afghan woman has competed in cycling in such a world class event.
Backstory: Although the mens and women’s teams were invited to the Games, which only occur every four years, the Afghan Olympic Committee was not going to send any members of the men’s or women’s team to the Games because they felt they wouldn’t be able to compete on the world stage and represent Afghanistan in a positive light. I met with the President of the Afghan Federation, Fahim Hashimy two weeks ago in Kabul, and discussed the progress of the women’s team and the positive story of women’s rights and sports development that they represent is stronger than their racing ability. The men’s team is relatively strong for the region and both teams can learn a lot and the opportunity will be integral to their development.
He agreed enthusiastically that he would support their bid, but that due to lack of funding and the amateur level of the cycling federation, the teams would need to be funded privately and right now Mountain2Mountain is at the sole supporter. We have submitted the paperwork for passports, visas, and travel arrangements for 4 girls and 2 boys plus Coach Seddiqe. Now we need to raise the funds to get them there to take part on this opportunity to race on the world stage.
The Afghan girls who are officially slated to race are Mariam, Sadaf, Massouma, and Zahra. Training with them over the past couple of weeks, I was proud to see how much they have improved over the past year in strength and endurance.
Need a little inspiration? Watch the Afghan Cycles trailer where you can see Mariam and Sadaf talk about cycling and what it means to them.
photo credit Deni Bechard