Nigara Shaheen’s road to this year’s Paris Olympics has been harder than most. Born in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in 1993, she was just six months old when her parents fled into Pakistan. In Peshawar, she grew into a fighter, first part of a rare all-girls karate team and then as a champion in judo. Judo took her back to Afghanistan to train and earn her undergraduate degree and, in 2021, to the Olympics as part of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, but a shoulder injury cost her a place on the podium. But thanks to a scholarship arranged by the International Olympic Committee, International Judo Federation, World University Service of Canada and the UN’s refugee agency, Shaheen, now 30, has been in Toronto since 2022, with a new dojo, permanent resident card, college degree, and renewed desire to medal.

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