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God took my arms but he gave me this gift

Who: Abbas Karimi

City: Fort Lauderdale

Quote: “Every time I swim I am reborn”

Abas Karimi
PH: Courtesy Anita Mitchell

“Being born without arms never held me back because I’ve learned to use my feet for everything. As a kid, this burden made me angry but swimming would soothe me. In Kabul, I learned to swim in rivers, then in a pool and I got really good at it. I knew, however, that if I really wanted to accomplish anything with my swimming, I would have to leave Afghanistan.


Because of my disability, my family wanted me to get married so that someone could take care of me. I wasn't having it. I had magical things to do. I was driven from within and knew that I could take care of myself.


So at age 16, I left war-torn Afghanistan, walked through Iran then was smuggled into Turkey where I lived for four years. The United Nations Refugee Program plucked me out of the refugee camp because of my swimming and brought me to Portland, Oregon to train for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.


I arrived in the United States after participating four times in a swimming world series and twice in world championships. I have six international medals and 25 medals from national events. Now I had a great situation to continue training.


For the Tokyo Paralympic Games, my plans were to swim the 50 meter butterfly, 50 meter backstroke and both the 50 and 100 meter freestyle. I already