AUAF alumna makes Olympic debut in judo
Against all odds, Nigara Shaheen made her Olympic debut in Tokyo, inspiring others and speaking up for women’s rights in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond.
Afghan Voice Agency (AVA)_Shaheen made her Olympic debut as part of the Team at the Nippon Budokan on Wednesday in the -70kg category, when she came up against Brazilian . Sadly for Shaheen, Portela proved too much for her, and beat her by a full point.
Born in Afghanistan, Shaheen’s family fled Jalalabad to Pakistan when she was six months old.
Almost two decades later, she returned to her birth country for the first time to study at the American University of Afghanistan.
Practising martial arts was a family tradition, and Shaheen first tried karate, but found what she needed in , starting when she was 11 while living as a refugee in Peshawar.
“I found in judo the way that allowed me to find confidence and show my strength when I needed it,” she told judoinside.com.
For Shaheen, the symbolic importance of her appearance at an representing the millions of refugees all over the planet cannot be overstated.
“My presence itself should give hope to all young Afghan girls that are dreaming of the Olympics,” she told Al-Jazeera.
“I have faced all the obstacles they are facing. But If I can do it, so can they. It is hard but nothing is out of the human capacity.
“Find what you’re really passionate about and follow it no matter what.”
Chosen as one of six judoka selected on the 29-strong Refugee Athlete Team to take part at the Tokyo Games, this is a milestone achievement.
At 28 years old, Shaheen can take her Olympics experience with her and build for the future, with Paris 2024 just three short years away.
Currently, Shaheen is studying international trade at the university in Ekaterinburg in Russia.
She says judo has helped her academically. “Judo helped me to strengthen my self-confidence not only in exams but also in my daily life, whether in debates, competitions or more,” as she told judoinside.com.