a male Para swimmer with no arms

Mohammad Abbas Karimi



Impairment information

Type of Impairment
Limb deficiency
Origin of Impairment
S5, SB6, SM5

Further personal information

Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA
English, Persian

Sport specific information

When and where did you begin this sport?
He began swimming at age 14, having previously been involved in kickboxing from age 12.
Why this sport?
His brother built a 25-metre pool for the community near their home in Kabul, Afghanistan, which encouraged him to start swimming. "I was 13 years old when I first jumped in. I was so afraid but that's how I started. Day-by-day I found it more interesting and I learnt to swim. I've loved water since I was a child. Sometimes my friends and I were not even going to school, we were going to the river and jumping in with our clothes on, not so deep, and when we got out the warm sun would dry our clothes. That's the reason I became a swimmer, because I was interested so much in the water."
Club / Team
Swim Fort Lauderdale : United States
Name of coach
Marty Hendrick [club]
Training Regime
He trains six days a week at the Carter Aquatic Complex in Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States of America.

General interest

Memorable sporting achievement
Winning silver in the S5 50m butterfly at the 2017 World Championships in Mexico City, Mexico. (, 12 May 2021)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"When I die, I want people to know that Abbas Karimi, without arms, he never gave up on his dreams and his goals. I can do something to change the world. I realised I could do that by being a champion, a Paralympic champion." (, 12 May 2021)
To win a medal at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. "I'm not just going there to compete. I hate losing. When I make the podium, I'm going to make a lot of refugees around the world happy." (, 12 May 2021)
He was born missing both arms. (, 27 Nov 2019; Athlete, 03 Dec 2017)
Other information
He was born in Afghanistan, but at age 16 he left the country without his family to escape the conflict and pursue his dream of becoming an elite athlete. He first flew to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and then paid smugglers to take him across the border into Turkey. He spent four years there without documentation, and it was during this period that he was contacted by Mike Ives, a former wrestling coach who had started helping refugee athletes. Ives told Karimi he would support him if he wanted to move to the United States of America, but the process was complicated by the fact that he did not have valid documentation. He settled in Portland, OR, United States of America in 2016. "I was a refugee in Turkey, I didn't have any passport to fly with. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR] helped me to explain my case and then the USA accepted me as a refugee. When I finally got there, I said this is another opportunity, a second chance." (, 27 Nov 2019;, 12 May 2021)

Several days after the 2019 World Championships in London, England, where he did not manage to defend the S5 50m butterfly silver medal he won at the 2017 edition, he was told that his father had passed away in Afghanistan. "I went back to Afghanistan for 11 days to be with my mother. I cried so much. I wanted to quit because when I put myself on this path, I gave up everything. It cost me so much to try to become a Paralympic champion. He [his father] said, 'I knew when you were born that you were going to be something special'. He added that, 'Among of all my kids, all my sons and daughters, you're the only one who put my name on top of the world'." (, 12 May 2021)


Unit Date Rank
Mexico City 2017 World Para Swimming Championships (Mexico City, Mexico)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's 100 m Freestyle S5 Final 1 2017-12-02 5
Men's 50 m Butterfly S5 Final 1 2017-12-03 2
Men's 50 m Backstroke S5 Heat 2 2017-12-04 6
Men's 50 m Backstroke S5 Final 1 2017-12-04 7
Men's 50 m Freestyle S5 Heat 2 2017-12-05 6
Men's 50 m Freestyle S5 Final 1 2017-12-05 5