GB Taekwondo offers training lifeline to Olympic star who escaped the Taliban
11th May 2022
An Afghan Olympic taekwondo athlete has accepted the opportunity to re-build his promising career and train alongside GB Taekwondo’s internationally successful squad in Manchester.
Only a month after carrying his country’s flag at the opening ceremony of Tokyo 2020, Farzad Mansouri fled Afghanistan with his immediate family in fear of reprisals from the Taliban.
Farzad, 20, subsequently spent eight months in a refugee camp in Abu Dhabi uncertain if and when he would be able to resume his promising, multi-medal winning career.
After hearing of his plight, performance director Gary Hall and GB Taekwondo administrators explored the possibility of offering Farzad chance to train at the National Taekwondo Centre until his future competitive and legal status is confirmed.
The support comes with the backing of the International Olympic Committee who are supporting Farzad with a solidarity grant that will fund his training, competition and living costs.
Now, the 2021 China Open and Fujairah Open silver medallist has completed his first week at the state-of-the-art facility home to current world champions, Bradly Sinden, Jade Jones and Bianca Walkden. And his new sponsors’ humanitarian gesture has delighted the athlete.
“We will do our very best to help and support Farzad while he is here,” said GB Taekwondo boss, Hall. “It is great he has finally arrived and we can help develop him as an elite taekwondo player.
“He is a very talented young man. At the Olympics last year, he only lost by one point to the world champion from South Korea.
“Considering he has been in a refugee camp for the past eight months; he has some tremendous qualities as a taekwondo athlete.
“He has gone through a real hard time and that has made him extremely hungry to succeed.
“He sees this, not only as a chance one day to become Olympic champion, but to changing his and his family’s lives.”
Farzad’s mother, father, brother and sister remain in the camp which is providing safety and shelter to around 2,000 people displaced by the Taliban regime.
The family fled from their home in Parwan province, leaving behind their house and all their belongings.
“It is still very difficult for me because I am away from them,” explained Farzad who has previously fought at a junior world championship and won a junior Asian Championship silver medal in 2019. “I worry about them.
“They supported me through my career and if not for them I don’t think I would have had chance to go to the Olympics.
“But for now, I am very happy to be here. I know GB Taekwondo is very strong in the world and I never had any facilities like this to train in Afghanistan.
“Sometimes, I still don’t believe I am here. I am very lucky and I can’t thank everyone enough for giving me a chance to start taekwondo again.
“In the camp, me, my brother, sister and nephew lived in one room. I couldn’t train for taekwondo, but I tried to keep myself fit by running and other physical activities.
“This was all in the camp as we weren’t allowed to go outside. We didn’t see anywhere; most of the time we were sleeping or eating.
“My dream now is to fight at the Paris Olympics and ‘inshallah’ win a medal,” smiled Farzad, who has fought at -68kg but in the future hopes to compete at -80kg.