Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Wrestling sure beats dodging land mines

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MOKHTAR HAKIMI has very few memories of his home in Afghanistan. Among those he does recall is that his neighbourhood was surrounded by land mines.

A bronze medalist in the 61-kilogram division of the Elmwood High School Wrestling Tournament on Saturday, Hakimi recalled his home, which he and his family left when he was five.

"I remember the apartment I used to live in," said Hakimi, who turns 17 on Thursday. "It was like just a brick building, with just cement. No carpets, no nothing. I remember I fell down the stairs too, and I cracked my head wide open. That wasn't cool.

"And there were land mines around my area too, but I think they got rid of them. It was really hazardous where I was living, but it is getting better."

The only danger Hakimi ran into Saturday was a tough West Kildonan Collegiate wrestler by the name of Evan Thibodeau. Hakimi had a bye into the second round where he disposed of St. Paul's High School's Matthew Wilson 6-0, but then lost to Thibodeau 5-0 sending him to the consolation side of the draw.

"I'm not disappointed," said Hakimi. "I'm just a little tired at the moment. I had a really hard opponent. He was really good, really well trained, and well adjusted. He saw me in my first match, and he was ready for my aggressive pattern. It was hard to develop new tactics, and was a lot of strain on my body."

In his third bout, Hakimi defeated West Kildonan's Devin Boldt 5-0, and then faced Wilson again for the bronze medal, winning 5-0.

Thibodeau went on to win the gold medal with a 7-0 triumph over West Kildonan's Kyle Oliver.

Hakimi said in Afghanistan wrestling is a very popular sport. "It's very respected, unlike here where it is not as popular, compared to the U.S.A., and other countries. My brother Shoja, and three cousins all wrestle. Actually my father is a black belt in kung fu, but he is really good at grappling. He knows his centre of gravity very well, and he taught me that."

Hakimi says he loves the sport.

"I like how you have to have total control. It's the domination, you're making your opponent do what you want. It's showing that you can make someone else have a lot of pain if they don't follow what you want to do."

Right now, his immediate goal is to win gold medals in the provincial and national competitions. The Olympics is also on his radar as well as a university scholarship after he graduates in two years.

allan.besson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 7, 2008 C4

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