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With the help of his family and other supporters, he got to travel to international competitions, and last year won silver at one of the sport's premiere events -- the world qualifiers in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City.
With success came better training conditions. After being selected for the national team six months ago, he has been able to use a special gymnasium.
But in a country where sports take a distant place behind the realities of war, few resources are dedicated to training athletes. Afghanistan has also had trouble gaining recognition for its national federations due to political divisions and concerns over the former Taliban regime.
"My training situation is a lot like the situation in my country," he said. "It's not good."
The news from the Olympics, however, is a rare ray of light.
The country has another chance at a medal in taekwondo. Nesar Ahmad Bahave, the silver medalist at the 2007 world taekwondo championships in Beijing, is competing in a heavier weight class.
And for Nikpai, there is an added bonus.
Along with the president's offer of a house, Nikpai's bronze medal also brings him a US$50,000 prize from a mobile phone company in Afghanistan.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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