MOGADISHU, SOMALIA - With the Olympics in Tokyo now just a month away, Somalia is set to send its first female taekwondo athlete to the games in Japan.
No athlete representing Somalia has ever a won a medal at the Olympics, but 20-year-old Munirah Warsame is working hard to be the first when she competes at the summer games.
The taekwondo athlete was born in Britain after her parents fled violence in Somalia.
Warsame says flying the flag of her home country in Japan will be a proud moment.
"Feelings of representing my country in the Olympics for the first time is unreal as I have dreamed about this my whole life since literally the age of six when I first started Taekwondo. And also it is such an exciting experience; I foresaw it representing my home country for my first at the Olympics and, inshallah (God willing), I will do myself and my country proud," Warsame said.
According to the Somali Olympics committee, at least six athletes will represent the country in Tokyo in three categories: taekwondo, boxing, and track and field.
Taekwondo coach Dudley Ricardo says his team is very well prepared despite its financial challenges.
"The potential of the Somali national team is looking quite bright and promising. I believe we have a small but strong current team with up-and-coming young team members and we will be able to see much more results in future competitions. The only restraints we have is funding to allow the athletes' valuable ring time and more competitions and training camps," Ricardo said.
Taekwondo is not a well-known sport in Somalia. But Ahmed Issa, the vice president of the Somali Taekwondo Federation says it is conducting and outreach and awareness campaign in the country to find more capable athletes like Warsame who could represent Somalia in international competitions.
"[The] Somali taekwondo federation is planning to recruit more youth to take the sport especially in universities, colleges, and schools. We try to do our free training sessions and hire special coaches from the international level so people are really interested to be part of [the] taekwondo sport," Issa said.
More than 11,000 athletes from around the world are expected to participate in the Tokyo games, which were rescheduled from last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.