Dealing with uncertainty: advice from a refugee athlete
On the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, 22-year-old boxer Farid Walizadeh, who is aiming to compete on the Refugee Olympic Team at the rescheduled Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, shares his journey and advises athletes on how to #StayStrong in times of uncertainty.
- Born in Afghanistan, Farid was separated from his family and became a refugee when he was just seven years old.
- After a long, perilous journey, Farid eventually found refuge in Portugal, where boxing provided him with a means to deal with past trauma.
- Following the postponement of the Olympic Games, Farid will continue to train towards Tokyo 2020 as one of 48 IOC Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holders.
Sport changed my life. Because I had nothing, and I didn’t even have a dream. In my place as a refugee, when you are on a long journey and you are always in the refugee sanctuaries and the education sanctuaries without having anything, you cannot even dream – because you need courage to dream.
But when I started sport, first I started to forget my trauma, and give all of that negative energy out to the punchbag. Then I started to learn how to deal with my trauma and stress. And then I started to see that I could make sport my life – and each day my dream became bigger. And today, I want to go to the Olympic Games, which are the biggest sports event in the world.
With every darkness there’s a light
I always try to see the positive side of problems. Maybe some of you are sad about the Olympic Games being postponed, but for me it’s an opportunity to prepare one year longer and learn some more techniques and skills.
When I was nine years old, I was in a prison for travelling in an illegal way to Europe – and life was way harder. But even then, as a child, I was trying to see the positive side of that. I was drawing and painting to try to pass the time, because with every darkness there’s a light. Every day the night comes, but the next day the light will come back.
If you look at the negative side of the problems, you get more sad and more stressed. But there’s always a good side to the problems, which you may not be able to see at the time. I approach it like that, and then each problem becomes easier to deal with.
Make the best of your situation
I think it’s a hard time but it’s also good, because we can train with more time, and we can watch more past competitions to learn from them.
I cannot train with my coach at the moment, because my coach lives in another part of Lisbon. And no one can go in or out of our high-performance competition centre; it is completely closed. So in the morning, I’m doing some cardio and power training with my weights and other equipment at home, and in the afternoon I’m trying new techniques and working on different strategies of boxing.
My advice is this: right now, we cannot train 100 per cent like we couldin the gym. There is almost no athlete in the world who can train in the gym at the moment, but that means that we are all in the same position. None of us are trying to beat each other right now, but we are all going to do our best at home with the materials that we have.
Be your own hero
Resilience is a choice, because if you give up then you are not really an athlete. All of us are resilient – whether we lose or win – if we are trying every day to do our best. Right now, we are dealing with the same problems, so we need to have resilience and the belief that this will pass. Instead of thinking about what you will lose, think about what you can change.
Instead of thinking about what you will lose, think about what you can change.
I have learned from my past that the most important thing is patience. Nothing will stay forever. You may have a problem today, and then tomorrow another problem. But they will pass – and this pandemic will pass too.
During this time, I want you to see the positives of everything, and try the things that you don’t have time to do in normal life when you have school, work or training. We can use this time for ourselves, to learn about ourselves. It’s for our health, so my message is to stay home, save yourself and save others. Be your own hero.
Athlete365 will continue to support boxers on their journey to Tokyo 2020 on our dedicated microsite, In Your Corner.