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IOC’s helping hand guides Nikpai to bronze  


Sometimes the story of Olympic glory is not about sporting success at the highest level, but about the journey it took to get there.

It’s not always about winning either, and although Afghanistan’s Rohullah Nikpai did not win gold at the Olympic Games in Beijing he won the hearts of a nation and a unique place in his country’s history.

When Nikpai beat Spanish world champion Juan Antonio Ramos in the taekwondo bronze medal play-off he broke down barriers too numerous to count.

He had spent much of his life in a refugee camp in Iran where the displaced drifted from the seemingly endless wars in his homeland.

It’s just about as unlikely a venue as one could imagine for a taekwondo training academy but it’s where at the age of 10 Nikpai learnt the rudimentary skills in the Korean martial art that would one day see him mount the Olympic podium.

He returned to Kabul in 2004 and with the help of government-funded facilities as well as financial and training assistance from the International Olympic Committee’s Solidarity programme, he started to develop a career on the international stage.

He reached the last 16 in the Asia Games in Doha in 2006 and went to the Beijing Science and Technology University Gymnasium in reasonably assured mood.

He lost in the main bracket quarter-finals but under the repechage system operated by taekwondo had a second bite at the cherry at winning one of two bronzes.

He enjoyed a narrow 2-1 win over Britain’s Michael Harvey in the opening round of the repechage and then produced the performance which earned his place in the Olympic annals.

He beat Ramos 4-1 to earn his country’s first-ever medal to spark scenes of spontaneous celebrations in his war-torn homeland.

President Karzai personally called Nikpai to congratulate him on his performance and awarded gun an exclusive apartment in Kabul as a demonstration of what can be achieved despite the most grievous of training environments.

 
   

43 Highlights

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  • Katerina Emmons - women’s 10m air rifle
  • Salukvadze, Pederina praised for gesture
  • Dutch end long wait for relay gold
  • Korean archery domination continues
  • Aussies edge Americans in scintillating relay
  • India's first individual gold medal
  • Coughlin again thwarts fast-finishing Coventry
  • Benjamin Boukpeti
  • Rice hits golden hat-trick in 4x200m relay
  • Phelps rewrites Olympic record books
  • China wins maiden team gymnastics gold
  • Steffen completes comeback with golden double
  • Andrunache emerges from Ignat’s shadow
  • The oldest winner of the women’s table tennis singles
  • Lightning Bolt electrifies Bird’s Nest
  • Roger Federer
  • British foursome continue Redgrave’s legacy
  • Zagunis leads U.S. clean sweep in sabre
  • Guo glitters in Water Cube
  • Rafael Nadal
  • Fraser leads unique Jamaican treble
  • Rebecca Romero
  • Reborn Taylor takes second hurdles title
  • Incredible Lezak puts Phelps on road to eight golds
  • Hoy joins cycling greats
  • Liukin follows in father’s footsteps
  • Jones heartbreak evokes Devers as Harper takes gold
  • IOC’s helping hand guides Nikpai to bronze
  • Bolt overcomes Johnson’s legendary 200m mark
  • Japan rock U.S. with softball win
  • Chausson, Strombergs grab first BMX golds
  • Campbell-Brown retains 200m crown
  • Steve Hooker
  • Jamaican foursome break world record
  • Perfect Walsh, May-Treanor star on the sand
  • Hellebaut raises the bar in battle with Vlasic
  • Korea ends baseball’s Olympic era with Cuban upset
  • Hungary secure stunning water polo hat-trick
  • Party atmosphere as curtain drawn on Beijing
  • Kanayeva waltzes to rhythmic gold
  • Mighty France thwart giantkillers Iceland
  • US restores basketball pride