Afghanistan’s only female athlete urged her fellow countrywomen to “come and join” her at the next Olympics after she set a personal best in the London Games 100m heats on Friday.
Tahmina Kohistani, who has overcome prejudice and huge difficulties to reach the Games, trailed in last in 14.42sec — the day’s slowest time by nearly half-a-second.
However, she was overjoyed to run her best ever time in front of a packed Olympic Stadium. And she said more women should take up sport in Afghanistan, where such activities are often strongly opposed.
“I have a big message for the women of Afghanistan. Come and join me because I’m alone and I need your support,” Kohistani said.
“And we must be ready for the next Olympics. We should have more than one girl in the next Olympics.”
Kohistani, dressed in a black headscarf topped with Afghanistan’s other national colors of red and green, and a long-sleeved, light blue top with long trousers, missed the next round’s qualifying time by a distance.
But she said her mere involvement in the Games would inspire other women in her war-ravaged, deeply conservative homeland.
“I think when I’m here it’s a big reason for the other athletes of Afghanistan,” she said. “It makes them ready for the next Olympics and when I go back I’m going to have a lot of messages for them.
“And I’m going to say for all women of Afghanistan to join me, and I’m ready to say welcome and I’m ready to help you, and we should make a network for women’s sport in our country.”
Kohistani comes from a country with few training facilities, and where many people are openly hostile to women playing sport.
She ran on a day when judoka Wojdan Shaherkani, 16, became Saudi Arabia’s first ever female Olympian, and 400m runner Maziah Mahusin made the same breakthrough for Brunei.
Kohistani is part of a six-strong Afghan team in London including Rohullah Nikpai, whose taekwondo bronze at Beijing 2008 was the country’s first ever Olympic medal.
“It’s the most and best achievement for me to be here and to represent Afghanistan as the only female athlete… I did my best to have a medal but I can’t. I’m going to say sorry for my people,” she said.
She spoke of the challenges she faces in daily life as she trains in Kabul, the Afghan capital.
“I train in Kabul but the situation is not good for me because whenever I train there are lots of people who want to disturb me,” she said, adding that her coach was “fighting with them all the time”.
“There were a lot of times when the people were saying something very wrong to me, (like) ‘Just leave these things, it’s not good’. One day when I was coming (to training) when I get the taxi the taxi driver asked ‘where are you going?’
“When I said I am going to training because I am going to be in the London Olympics he said, ‘Get out of my taxi’.”
Kohistani, standing just five feet three inches (1.60m) tall, added that her time in the British capital had been happy — away from the pressures of home.
“When I’m here I’m very happy because I had good training over here and… here I can do my best in training because there were no people to disturb me, there was no one to say something bad about me,” she said.
“I think that most of the people here were very, very lovely and all the time they were smiling at me and encouraging me.”
Afghan women competed at the Olympics for the first time at Athens 2004, when Robina Muqimyar ran the 100m and Friba Razayee took part in judo.