Abbas Karimi To Compete For Refugee Paralympic Team In Tokyo

Abbas Karimi, a swimmer born without arms, fled Afghanistan at 16.

The story of Abbas Karimi has gone from Afghanistan to a pool in Tokyo.

Karimi, a 24-year-old swimmer, was born without arms but this has not stopped him from accomplishing great things and becoming an inspiration. Karimi is one of six athletes competing for the Refugee Paralympic Team in Tokyo and might be the only Afghan competitor. Due to the current situation with the Taliban in Afghanistan, the country’s Paralympic delegation was unable to fly to Tokyo for the competition.

Karimi was able to escape Afghanistan long before the current chaos. It was not an easy journey for Karimi to get to the Paralympic Games but it all came together when he led a flood of nations during the opening ceremonies. He was one of two flag bearers for the team.


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In 2013, Karimi was taken to Iran and he connected with a group that then traveled to Turkey. He was determined to continue swimming and learning different styles. This began during his time in Afghanistan, where he fled from at age 16. During his time in Turkey, Karimi connected with Mike Ives, a retired wrestling and football coach. Ives began a letter-writing campaign that helped Karimi resettle as a refugee in America, where he lived with Ives in Portland and joined a U.S. Masters Swimming Team.


Abbas Karimi has enjoyed some success in swimming and this includes winning silver in the 50-meter butterfly at the paraswimming world championships in Mexico City in 2017. He competed in 2019 and placed sixth at the 2019 world championships in London before he was forced to take a break due to the pandemic.

The current adventure he is embarking on in Tokyo gives Karimi a chance to compete once again but will also offer an experience that will not be forgotten soon. Karimi began training as a swimmer at a young age against all odds. On Instagram, he recently shared a photo where he simply said “Dream came True.”

Abbas Karimi is a story that can inspire anyone in any sport. The world of swimming will have a chance to watch Karimi in Tokyo. He also shared on social media that he will be swimming the 50-meter butterfly on Friday and the 50-meter backstroke on Monday.

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Greg Patuto
Greg has covered the four major sports for six years and has been featured on sites such as Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, SB Nation,, and FanSided. Now, he is transitioning into the world of bodybuilding and strength sports.