Paris 23: Salum Ageze Kashafali's victory dance spreads the love

Paralympic and world champion delights fans at the Paris 23 Para Athletics World Championships with his unique moves 13 Jul 2023
Salum Ageze Kashafal celebrates with his arm in the air after winning the race
Salum Ageze Kashafali celebrates victory in the men's 100m T13 final at Paris 23
ⒸAlexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

When Salum Ageze Kashafali takes the track, the stadium becomes a huge dance floor. Norway's Paralympic and world champion sprinter nails a few dance moves before taking a deep breath and walking to the starting blocks. The race starts and he sprints. He crosses the line first and then celebrates with another dance. The routine that came to prominence at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games was on full display again in Paris as he won the men's 100m T13 world title.

Just dance 

At Charlety Stadium on Wednesday (12 July), the crowd roared their approval as he crossed the finish line in a Para athletics world championship record of 10.45 seconds, 0.37 second ahead of Brazil’s Fabricio Barros.   

“I cannot describe it. It’s an amazing feeling. It’s my first time competing in Para athletics with so many people,” Kashafali said after his race. 

“I tried to feed all of the energy. You can be as good as you want but it you don’t have that energy from the crowd, that warmth, you cannot run that fast.” 

Kashafali stormed to victory in front of a thrilled crowd at the Charlety Stadium Ⓒ Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Before races, he says that dancing is his way to relax and remember to always have fun, which especially works when he is nervous in the call room.  

“When I’m nervous I try to joke with my colleagues. I call (the other athletes) colleagues. I try to fool around with them and just make them dance and just make fun of them in a funny way,” he said. “It’s important to feel positive, don’t be so serious. We are just competing 100 metres, you know? 

“Some of them just looks at me (like I’m) funny and some of them says ‘Yes, yes, let’s go Salum’. And that’s how it is with me.” 

After the race, dancing is a way to celebrate his victory. 

“I’m always dancing and that makes me happy,” he said. “I come from a background with a lot of culture, music and dancing. Dancing takes me back to my roots and that’s the way to show my happiness. 

“That’s the way to do it – spread love.” 

Finding Para sports  

Kashafali spent his childhood in war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo, recalling that there were times when he and his family were “struggling to stay alive”.  

He and his family eventually escaped the unrest and settled in Norway. But he has stayed close to his roots.  

He began competing in athletics and found success very quickly, competing at Norway’s national championships. But one day in 2017, he woke up and noticed that most of his vision was gone. He underwent multiple tests before he was told that he had Stargardt disease, a rare eye condition.  

A year later, he was introduced to Para athletics.  

“Para sports changed my life. It showed me that I could still be a part of sports, it showed me that I could still be a part of the track and field that I loved,” he said.  

“It showed me that I still have a place in the community. It gave me back joy and just sense of value as a person one year after I lost my vision. 

Global success quickly followed, as Kashafali won gold on his Paralympic debut at Tokyo 2020, logging a time of 10.46 seconds to top the podium in the men’s 100m T12. 

Kashafali claimed Paralympic 100m T12 gold in a world record time at Tokyo 2020 Ⓒ Adam Pretty/Getty Images


Dance floor in Paris 

Next year, he looks forward to celebrating his achievements again with a special dance at Stade de France, the Para athletics venue at Paris 2024.  

And he wants to show off his moves in front of a packed crowd, given that the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games were held without spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For now, he is taking one day at a time.  

“I will try to do what is important today to be able to manifest what will manifest next year,” Kashafali said. “ 

“Of course I’ll have something special next year. It’s going to be a surprise,” the Paralympian said about his dance moves in Paris. “I look forward to just go out there and try to make the sport grow.” 

Follow the action from Paris 23 via the Paralympics YouTube and Facebook, plus live results on the World Para Athletics website.