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Afghani sprinter training on cement paths seeks Olympic dream
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Massoud Azizi from Afghanistan finished his men's 100-meter sprint with 11.45 seconds at the Beijing Olympic Games on Friday morning, satisfied with his result yet envious of the other runners who have been training on all-weather synthetic track.

"It is difficult since we don't even have a track in Afghanistan," said the 23-year-old who started to race seven years ago.

"We run on concrete," he added.

Afghanistan's athletes have overcome numerous obstacles to represent their country in Beijing.

"Today I ran good and I feel my time is also good. It is good for me because athletes from Afghanistan can run in the world competition," said Azizi.

Running after top guns Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell in front of about 80,000 spectators, Azizi proved that he is still the fastest man in Afghanistan.

"Other countries' athletes can have a track, but we don't. We run on concrete everyday, it is very hard for us," Azizi said in the world-class stadium known as Bird's Nest which carries a price tag of 500 million US dollars.

Running on the fifth lane, Azizi finished last of his heat. His personal best is 11.11 on the official record, but he told Xinhua it was 11.02. The sprinter clocked a heat time of 11:66 at the Athens Games.

"The track here is very good, I can feel. It is a real problem that we don't have a track in Afghanistan," said Azizi, who couldn't stop admiring the Tartan track under his feet.

"If we have a track, I can win an Olympic medal," Aziz said. "That is what I can promise to all people. When I did my competition, I was very happy because athletes running on concrete could compete in the Olympic Games."

"It's my dream to have a competition with Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay. But when I do my record very well, I can run with Asafa Powell."

"In the Taliban regime, it is (was) very hard for us to run in Afghanistan. Then I trained in Pakistan," said Azizi who now trained in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

With his Beijing trip financed by the Afghan Olympic Committee, Azizi was lucky to find an individual sponsor in Afghanistan. The sponsor's family name is "Bayad" and has been helping Afghani athletes in domestic and overseas competition, according to the sprinter.

"He says if I take a medal at the Olympic Games, he will give me 60,000 dollars; top eight positions, he will give 50,000 dollars. If you can not take any medal or any postition, he gives all athletes 5,000 dollars when we come back to Afghanistan," said Azizi.

Azizi will bid farewell to his second Olympics and go home on Aug. 17 after his compatriot Robina Muqimyar, the only Afghan female athlete in Beijing, finishes the women's 100m sprint.

He told Xinhua that he would compete in the Islamic Games and the South Asian Games and race in Indonesia.

"When I go back to Afghanistan I will continue training everyday," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency August 15, 2008)

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