Akhmed and his Family & Friends

Family & Friends. They are the closest thing to the Invictus Games competitors. Saw them at their worst moments, gave them a push when it was needed, and listened or stimulated. Just what was needed. When the Invictus Games are held in The Hague in April, they will also be there to support their loved ones. We made a series together with Invictus Games competitors and one or more of their Family & Friends. In this episode: Akhmed Safarov and his wife Manana Kartsivadze.

By Edward Swier

Akhmed Safarov takes his biggest fan to the Invictus Games in The Hague. Manana Kartsivadze, Akhmed’s wife, with her love and devotion, made sure he never gave up. The soldier from Georgia lost both his legs during a military mission in Afghanistan in 2011.

Safarov is preparing for his first participation at the Invictus Games. Like his teammates, he is looking forward to the event in The Hague. In Tserovani, on the grounds of the Maro Makashvili Military Rehabilitation Center, the Georgian team has been preparing thoroughly for years. Since 2018, the facilities there are optimal.

The Georgian team of the Invictus Games can use the sports facilities at the Rehabilitation Center during their preparations. Training sessions and competitions take place, in addition,  work can be done on the physical and mental recovery of the soldiers. The National Paralympic Federation helps by providing coaches and equipment.

But, for Akmed Safarov, it is at least as important that he can rely on the support of his wife and two children. Especially in the time of COVID-19, Georgian athletes were also forced to train mainly at home. The trainers provided special instructions to keep both body and mind in good condition. The support of his wife and children were also of great importance.

Safarov is a member of the Georgian team competing in wheelchair basketball at the Invictus Games. He participates individually in the wheelchair races on the athletics track. In the past, he participated in para-canoeing. Years ago, Akhmed participated in the World Para-canoeing Championships in Milan. These days, he is also training with the national paralympic basketball team. Safarov enjoys his sports, but without the support of the home front, he would never have persevered as much he does now.

Safarov has been in the military since 2010. In October 2011, he took part in a military mission in Afghanistan. While on patrol in Helmand province, he came across a mine that exploded below him. Safarov lost both his legs. The mission was led by the U.S. Army so Safarov went to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington for his recovery. Later, he needed surgery on his right hand, which he had been damaged by the explosion. Akhmed said, “I survived the tough recovery thanks to the support of the people I love.”

His wife Manana Kartsivadze gave him something to fight for right after the accident. She told him that she would not leave him without a fight. Even now, Safarov says that her words determined his future. “That woman, who was my girlfriend at the time, supported me tremendously. She made sure I could more or less resume a normal life.”

The couple married and had two sons. They are the biggest fans of Akhmed, they motivate him. Akhmed: “Manana is the strongest woman I know. She has a big heart, full of love and kindness.” He can emphatically remember that she feared whether Safarov could survive the ordeal. “But God loves me,” he says with a laugh. He has the feeling that partly because of this reason, e now has something to prove at the Invictus Games. He wants to show what he is capable of. “My participation in the Invictus Games gives me the opportunity to show myself and the public that the story of my life is not over yet.”

Akhmed: “In that book about my life, there are certainly a number of pages about the explosion, about the fact that I encountered a mine. But it’s also about love, dedication, self-sacrifice and unity. We can do anything, as long as we do it together.” Safarov, still on active duty, realizes that this will enable him to set an example for other during the Invictus Games and afterwards.

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