“Now I'm smiling from the stage while you were clapping in the nosebleeds.”
As Jaki Kudadadi, the 23-year-old national Taekwondo player from Afghanistan, walked into the dark stadium, literally holing the limelight with “Thunder” by American rock band “Imagine Dragons” filling the air of the hall. Just like the lyrics of the song, Kudadadi stood on the center stage not only of her game, but in the entire Tokyo Paralympic Games.
The first-ever Taekwondo match in the history of the Paralympics took place at 10 a.m. on Thursday at Makuhari Messe Hall B in Chiba Prefecture, Japan. Kudadadi showed up in the very first match. Her introduction came first before Ziyodakhon Isakova of Uzbekistan, her competitor in women’s 49-kg match. Kudadadi became the second Paralympic player from Afghanistan, following Mareena Karim, a track and field athlete who competed in the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games
While Kudadadi had been scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on August 16 from Kabul, her chances of competing seemed impossible with the Taliban taking over the Afghan capital and the airport shut down. Thanks to aid from international communities, she was able to safely arrive in Tokyo after stopping by Paris.
Having earned the first point with a kick, the Afghan won the first round 6-5 but lost the match 12-17. In the consolation round, Kudadadi lost to Victoria Marchuk of Ukraine 34-48, putting an end to her journey in Tokyo. The Afghan athlete is suffering congenital disability with her left arm. She practiced in the backyard and parks for her dream to compete in Paralympic games, and her dream came true regardless of the final scoreboard.