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Afghanistan Women First Ever to Compete in Olympics - 2004-08-12

It's not necessarily whether you win or lose, what's important is that you actually get a chance to play the game. That might sum up the philosophy of the two young Afghan women who are the first female athletes ever to join their male counterparts at the Olympics.

When asked about her chances of winning an Olympic medal in Judo, Friba Razayee smiles and giggles that she's just happy to be able to compete at the games.

"I am really happy, winning or losing is not important for us, because we are the first women," she says. "The Olympic Games are important to us, we are all Olympians and it is important to us to participate and we are not here just for a medal."

Ms. Razayee and her teammate, Robina Muqim Yaar, a sprinter, are in Athens for the 2004 Olympics. That's no small feat considering the International Olympic Committee banned Afghanistan from participating in the games in 1999 partly because of the Taliban government's decision to exclude female athletes.

Today, Ms. Razayee says she and her teammate are helping other young Afghan girls get involved in sports.

"They encouraged us a lot and said we demonstrate support and that we want to be like you," she adds. "I am very proud and will be very happy to be an example for them. I want to bring them into the sport."

Ms. Razayee and her family fled to Pakistan after the Taliban regime came into power in Afghanistan. There she became involved in martial arts, so when her family moved back to Afghanistan in 2001, she says she knew exactly what she wanted to do. Ms. Razayee says her family shares in her enthusiasm.

"They are very happy and they encouraged me a lot. Especially my father, he says now my baby has grown up," she says.

Here in Athens, the Afghan girls will wear slacks, rather than shorts, while they compete. And at home in Afghanistan, the two female athletes now train with the boys they were once forbidden to sit next to in the classroom.