Paralympic Games: Bopha Kong, foolproof fighting spirit

He may have passed his forties, but Bopha Kong will have stars in his eyes when he enters the Makuhari Messe in Chiba on Thursday, September 2, which hosts a taekwondo competition for the first time in Paralympic history. Despite ” small sores ” recurring to the knee, the quadruple world champion, selected for the French team since 2009, approaches the competition with the feeling of being at the top of his form.

The mind, its main strength

I worked hard to be ready on D-Day ”, supports the 40-year-old para-taekwondoist, who has had both hands amputated. ” Of course, physically, I may not have the same energy as I was 20 years old, but I compensate with fighting spirit, experience and strategy. ” These Games represent for him ” the culmination of a long career spanning more than 20 years ”. If the physique follows, he will try to be part of the game in 2024 at the Paris Games. Until then, he will continue to ” pamper ” his body, ” like we maintain an old model of car so that it continues to run ”.

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The excitement has been building up since the world number one (in the under 61 kg / B43 category) flew to Tokyo at the end of last week. Cause this ordeal kinda makes him restart “In the unknown”. Outclassed, he will face fighters he has never faced until today, suffering from a less acute pathology than his. ” It’s a new challenge that awaits me. I have a plan to beat my opponents, some of whom will have the advantage of having both hands. It will be necessary to be precise, to surprise them with unexpected blows and techniques and to go there with the guts. “

Obsessive of work

His steel mind will be his main weapon. His trainer Oury Sztantman is impressed with the state of mind ” extraordinary “ of this obsessive of work: “Like the great champions, he plays his life in training. As long as he does not have mastery of the gesture, of a technical or tactical scheme, he will repeat it relentlessly ”, he observes. ” He is a warrior who reveals himself in battle. The higher the adversity, the more he is galvanized, when others, just as good as him, can be overcome by doubt. “

This strength of character spared him moments of depression following his accident, which occurred in 1999 in the neighborhood of his childhood in Gonesse. He was then hanging out with a group of friends, ” bad teenage encounters ”, who had the disastrous idea of ​​designing a homemade bomb. ” I took it in my hands before it exploded ”, he remembers. After the detonation, the gang scampered off, leaving the young man, unconscious, with both hands torn off, lying on the ground: “ They thought I was dead, that nothing more could be done for me. “

Lead by example

Even today, diffuse feelings are intertwined. A mixture of bitterness and fatalism: ” CornI don’t have any hatred towards them ”, cut this dad from a 2 year old girl. Despite the drama that transformed his life, he refuses the label of victim. “It’s just my fate. I am very happy and proud of the man I have become. “ After his hospitalization, the desire to continue to practice a combat sport, which he praises “The values ​​of fair play”, was too strong. Taekwondo, the ultimate art of footwork and kicking, naturally imposed itself on this former regular in boxing rings. “It was certainly the discipline best suited to my handicap”, he agrees.

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Driven by a great drive for life, today he aspires to ” to be a good man, an example of fighting spirit ”. Ambassador of “sport, health and well-being” for the departmental council of Seine-Saint-Denis, he became part of local life, teaching taekwondo to young able-bodied until recently in the Bondy club, where he has been licensed since 2015. Originally from Vietnam, a country he left at the age of 3, the taekwondoist also hopes that his career will serve as an example “ to show everyone that beyond our differences – regardless of skin color, religion or disability – it is possible to live together and respect each other ”.


The epic of Zakia Khudadadi, Afghan para-taekwondoist

Fleeing the totalitarian Taliban regime, para-taekwondoist Zakia Khudadadi is preparing against all odds to represent Afghanistan this Thursday at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. The presence of this 23-year-old young woman, exfiltrated from her country with other athletes thanks to a mission led by the Australian government, is a miracle. She had failed to reach Japan at the time of the opening ceremony on August 24. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) had announced a few days earlier that the Afghan delegation, also made up of parathlete Hossain Rasouli, could not take part in these Games. She finally landed in Tokyo on August 28, welcomed as a hero at the Olympic Village. Born in the province of Herat, the young woman suffers from a birth disability which prevents her from having the use of one of her arms. At only 18, she won the first African para-taekwondo championships in 2016. In Tokyo, she dreams of imitating her compatriot Rohullah Nikpai, who won bronze in taekwondo, in Beijing and London.


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