TOKYO (Dispatches) - Afghan refugee Masomah Alizada hopes to be a beacon for women forced to quit their country or abandon their sporting dreams when she crosses the start line at the Tokyo Olympics.
The 24-year-old road cyclist will compete at the 2020 Games for the Olympic Refugee Team.
She also sees herself as a representative of women.
But she takes up the burden voluntarily -- and with pride.
“I am going to represent humanity,” Alizada told AFP.
“It’s not just for me. It’s rather for all the women in Afghanistan and all women in every country like Afghanistan,” she said.”
I would like to open the doors for other refugees who will come after me.”
Alizada will take on 25 other competitors in the Olympic women’s road time trial.
When she sets off on July 28 on the 22.1-kilometre course, it will be the first time she has ever raced in a time trial event.
Fifty-six refugee athletes were given a solidarity scholarship by the International Olympic Committee, of which 29 were chosen to compete in Tokyo.
Alizada was given a month of intense training at the UCI World Cycling Centre in Aigle, western Switzerland, before arriving in Japan on Wednesday.
Jean-Jacques Henry, her coach at the center, says she is the best female cyclist ever to come out of Afghanistan, and is impressed with her rapid progress.