LONDON: While most Olympic athletes are backed by strong support in their home countries, Afghanistan's Tahmina Kohistani has encountered not just disapproval, but outright opposition.
But the 100m sprinter said her appearance at the London Olympics, as her country's only female athlete, was important not just for her, but for all women in conservative Afghanistan.
"This means a lot for me and my country. There were a lot of people who were trying to disturb me, to stop me from training, but I am here," she said on Tuesday.
"A lot of people will be watching me," she added. "Being a Muslim female athlete is most important for me.
"I represent a country where every day there are suicide bomb blasts. It is important that a girl from such a country can be here."
Kohistani, 23, from the north-eastern province of Kapisa, admits it would be a "miracle" to reach the 100m final, let alone claim a medal.
The 1.60m (five foot three) runner, instantly recognisable on the track by her traditional headscarf, has a personal best of 15.0sec -- more than four seconds slower than the late Florence Griffith-Joyner's long-standing world record.
The slow time is not surprising given Kohistani comes from a country with few facilities, where many people are openly hostile to the involvement of women in sport.
She is part of a six-strong Afghan team in London including Rohullah Nikpai, whose taekwondo bronze at Beijing 2008 was the war-ravaged, deeply religious country's first ever Olympic medal.
"I know that having a medal at the Olympics is very difficult, but I am here to open a new way for the women of Afghanistan because in my society there is no sport for females," Kohistani said.
"My people do not accept sport for women, they think sport is not good for them, but my family supports me and they have no problems."
And Kohistani, who will take part in the 100m heats on August 3, holds out the faint hope that a slip-up by her rivals could open the way to a place in the final.
"It is all in the mind. The race is fast. If any of the favourites make a mistake, maybe it will be a miracle for me," she said.