KGUN 9 On Your SideNews


Paralympic Powerlifter from Tucson Ahmed Shakif

Posted at 8:34 PM, Aug 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-09 23:37:44-04
From where Ahmed Shafik has been, you would never believe where he is going. 
Shafik grew up in Iraq, where he would watch his father lift weights as a young boy.  Abdul Shafik was a record-setting member of the Iraqi national weightlifting team.
"Looking at his pictures I'd think, I'd love to do that," Ahmed says.
But Ahmed, who was born with polio, would be held back by his legs. 
"My legs could not help me to do this kind of lifting," he says.
But he could use his upper body strength to compete, like his father, and would later join the Iraqi National team. 
A fifth place finish in the 1998 World Championships would disappoint Iraqi Olympic Authorities, who were lead at the time by Saddam Hussein's son, Uday.
The authorities sent the weight lifters to jail, where they were abused and beaten. 
"I was talking to myself in prison, like why? Is this because I love to do this? This is the payoff?" Ahmed recalls.
Following his release from prison, Ahmed escaped to Jordan and later received refugee status to enter the United States. 
Ahmed found home in Tucson and graduated from Pima Community College in 2007.  He then joined the United States Army and worked as a translator in Iraq.  That's when his desire to lift weights grew strong again.
"To be honest I looked in the mirror and said, 'wow I look good, I probably should lift!" 
Ahmed won the first competition he entered as a United States competitor.  He eventually landed a spot on the USA Paralympic team.
Ahmed will represent the United States in the 2016 Paralympic Games in September and be the team's only representative in powerlifting.
"Flags waving everywhere, people clapping, cheering United States team, it's just overwhelming for me," says Ahmed, who will soon become a two-time Olympian.
Ahmed and his wife are expecting their second son in early September.  He hopes to be present for his wife's delivery, but says she understands if he is away competing in his final competition.