March 15, 2020 / 4:59 PM / 18 days ago

Olympics: Injury blow for Afghan refugee boxer in Tokyo qualifiers

FILE PHOTO: Boxer Farid Walizadeh practices during a training session in Lisbon, Portugal February 19, 2020. Picture taken February 19, 2020. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

LONDON (Reuters) - Stateless Afghan refugee boxer Farid Walizadeh suffered a blow to his hopes of fighting at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after injury ruled him out of a qualifying tournament in London on Sunday.

Polish lightweight Damian Durkacz was given a walkover to the last 16 in the 57-63kg category as a result of the 22-year-old’s no-show.

Walizadeh, who fled Afghanistan on foot as a seven-year-old and ended up in an orphanage in Istanbul before being relocated to Portugal, has one more chance to qualify at a tournament in Paris in May.

Reaching Tokyo has always been a long shot, however, for the youngster who received a scholarship from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last March to train full-time.

“When boxing, I can totally get focused in what I’m doing, so I forget what’s happened in the past. And that’s helped me in trauma. Now I’m training,” Walizadeh told Reuters in Lisbon last month.

“I work hard and I want to inspire people that there’s always a second chance if they want. I want to inspire, motivate people not to say ‘OK, it’s done, I’ve lost everything’.

“Yes, I’ve lost my house, yes I lost my childhood, I lost my life, my country, my city, my family, but you can build everything again.”

The Tokyo Games are due to begin in July, although there is uncertainty due to the global coronavirus outbreak that has ravaged the sporting calendar with cancellations and postponements.

The Boxing Road to Tokyo European qualification tournament is being organized by an IOC task force after the suspension of international federation AIBA last June because of issues concerning governance and finance.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond

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