abdullah sediqi has lived out his dream of competing in taekwondo at the tokyo 2020 olympics as part of the ioc refugee olympic team.
sediqi escaped from armed gangs in afghanistan and set out for europe on foot, enduring endless 12-hour daily walks, to reach belgium, where he trained in a refugee camp. The pandemic has also hit him hard, as he lost her mother to the coronavirus before he could see her again.
Chosen in the refugee team, he was given an almost impossible task in his first fight, facing the reigning Olympic champion zhao shuai.
Unfazed, he put up a fierce fight against the Chinese river gold medalist, but was ultimately eliminated by a score of 22-20.
The Chinese taekwondoin field was clearly shaken by sediqi’s quality and determination with the underdog winning 5-2 in the first round thanks to a barrage of kicks and body punches.
after round 2 it was 11-11.
zhao had to use all his experience as his belgian opponent fought to the last, the most spectacular moment of the fight came in the closing seconds when sediqi unleashed an incredible roundhouse kick to the body for four points.
While it wasn’t enough to take the match to gold scoring, the defeated refugee athlete was able to leave the makuhari dining hall with head held high, knowing he had given his all.
At 24, he has time to learn from his first Olympic appearance and come back stronger at Paris 2024.
sediqi’s defiance and bravery in defeat is hardly surprising, considering he’s been fighting against all odds since he was eight years old.
It’s a story of escape and survival, resilience and refusal to give up.
“there were days when I walked for 12 hours straight”
taekwondo has been an outlet for sediqi since childhood, a way to forget war, constant danger, insecurity.
When they tried to take that away from him too (armed gangs that threatened his life if he continued to participate in taekwondo competitions), he knew he had to run.
fleeing to europe four years ago was an odyssey.
“It was an exhausting mission, there were days when I walked for 12 hours straight,” he said.
he finally found a place to be in wilrijk, a neighborhood in antwerp, he was finally able to train again, and his talent and dedication paid off.
Working hard in Wilrijk with coach alireza naser azadani, she won silver at the 2019 spanish open before representing the taekwondo world as a refugee at the 2019 world championships.
there in manchester he reached the last 64 in his weight class.
Then disaster struck, both globally and personally with the pandemic sweeping the planet.
“My mother died of coronavirus six months ago,” he told taekwondo vlaanderen (flanders taekwondo), revealing that he was unable to see his mother before her death from covid-19.
“Her death was difficult for me, I hadn’t seen her since I arrived in Belgium. Suddenly, they tell you that she is seriously ill; a while later she left.”
again, taekwondo was there for him as he dedicated himself to training, preparing and learning.
He got some good news when he received a scholarship for refugee athletes from the IOC to practice his sport, an award he told the Tokyo 2020 website last year was a “moment of peace”.
Then, on June 8, he was among the 29 athletes named to represent the IOC Refugee Olympic Team at Tokyo 2020.
“countries can come together (through) sport, no matter who you are. black, white, female, male or whatever country you’re from.
“in the olympic games (they are all) from one place”.
Now that he’s been there and experienced his first games, there could be more to come from Abdullah Sediqi, whose journey is far from over.