The neighborhood boys shout at Mehboba Ahdyar when she leaves home. "Hero, hero! Look at the hero of our country," they yell at Ahdyar, one of Afghanistan's fastest female runners.
But the boys are not saluting a top athlete. Their sarcastic jabs are meant to poke fun at a teenage girl trying to realize Olympic-sized dreams.
Ahdyar, a 19-year-old middle-distance runner, is the only female on Afghanistan's four-member Olympic team.
"I feel bad about all these things that happen to me every day, but I'll still march forward," Ahdyar said last week. "I never show weakness. I'll fight through these challenges."
Afghanistan, which has never won an Olympic medal, was banned from the 2000 Games in Sydney because the Taliban regime outlawed women from taking part in sports. The country participated in the Atlanta Games in 1996, before the Taliban came to power, and the Athens Games in 2004.
Ahdyar faces an uphill battle for Olympic success. Practice facilities are Spartan at best in Afghanistan, which is still fighting its way through a violent Taliban insurgency six years after the hard-line regime's ouster.
Although women's rights have improved dramatically since 2001, women here are still second-class citizens. Most wear the all-covering burqa in public and would need male family members' permission before tackling anything remotely as ambitious as trying to become an Olympic athlete.
Taliban militants often target organizations and individuals who champion women's issues, and the taunting by neighborhood boys - a mere nuisance in other societies - could draw the attention of militant suicide bombers.
"We are scared, really scared about the security situation in our country, and the people who have negative views about my family," said her mother, Moha Jan. But she added: "These problems cannot stop us from supporting our daughter."
During practice - held inside Kabul's main sports stadium, where the Taliban used to carry out public executions - Ahdyar wears a headscarf, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
She will soon travel to Malaysia for five months to train before the Beijing Games in August.
Her times are not exactly world-class. Ahdyar runs 1,500 meters a full minute slower than the Olympic record.
Her 800-meter times are not much stronger, but Afghan officials say just taking part is the most important thing.
1. Why was Afghanistan banned from taking part in the Sydney Games in 2000?
2. Who are often the targets of Taliban militants?
3. What will Mehboba Ahdyar wear when she will compete in the Olympics?
1.Because the Taliban outlawed women from taking part in sports.
2.Organizations and individuals who champion women’s issues.
3.A headscarf, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
（英语点津 Celene 编辑）
About the broadcaster:
Bernice Chan is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Bernice has written for newspapers and magazines in Hong Kong and most recently worked as a broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, producing current affairs shows and documentaries.