Portland athlete becomes first refugee to place at para-swimming world championships

Abbas Karimi, 20, of Portland places second in the men's 50 meter butterfly this month at the Para Swimming World Championships.

The Afghan-born para-athlete living in Portland took home the silver in an event at the 2017 Para Swimming World Championships this month.

Abbas Karimi, 20, placed second in the men's 50-meter butterfly.

He finished fifth in the men's 50-meter freestyle.

KATU spoke with Abbas in September when he was training for the world championships. The competition was originally scheduled for late September, but was postponed for two months after a devastating earthquake hit the region.

Karimi was born without arms in war-torn Kabul, Afghanistan.

Karimi learned to swim in his home country, but immigrated to Iran, then Turkey searching for a safer, better life. He now lives with his host parent Mike Ives in Portland.

Karimi swims for the Oregon Reign U.S. Masters Swimming team based at Mt. Hood Community College.

Coach Dennis Baker says he is proud of the 20-year-old athlete, who made his international debut earlier this year.

"It is so awesome he got a silver in the 50 meter," Baker told KATU's Chris Liedle. "For competitors like Abbas, that is never enough. He's seen the top swimmers. Now, he will come back and work twice as hard, and beat them."

After the competition, Karimi thanked his coach on Facebook.

"Our [hard work] paid off, but it's just a good beginning," he wrote.

Karimi became the first refugee swimmer to win a World Championships medal.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off