Afghan Olympians pin their hopes on wrestling

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Afghan Olympians pin their hopes on wrestling

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It is a call to warriors. The beat of the drum resonates through centuries in Afghanistan. In Kabul it is helping to prepare wrestlers for the London Olympics.

The drum dominates the Zurkhaneh, an octagonal pit with a floor of clay soil in which athletes train and take part in a variety of disciplines. Afghan wrestlers are using it to train for the Olympics.

“It is the dream of every sportsman to get a medal at the Olympipc Games and raise your country’s flag,” said Afghan Olympic hopeful Ahmad Shikab Attaey.

The word Zorkaneh means, “the house of strengths” and originated thousands of years ago to train warriors for battle. Now raising wooden shields and heavy metal rings is building the wrestlers’ strength.

Team member Hakimullah Baik insists that consistent competition will keep the Afghan wrestlers sharp for London.

“We have trained well enough to take part in the Olympic Games but before we compete in the Games we have one competition in Iraq and another in Malaysia. Then we will hopefully compete in London 2012,” he says.

Wrestlers have gone from Afghanistan to the showpiece games before but never been on the podium. Four years ago in Beijing the country won its first medal: a bronze in Taekwondo. Now it’s hoped Zurkhaneh will help the wrestlers raise their flag again.