The shy 25-year-old that got up from the sofa hardly looked like a fighter of Olympian proportion. Afghanistan's Rohullah Nikpai followed his Beijing Taekwondo bronze with another at London to give rare joy to his strife-torn nation.
"This medal is very, very important as it makes people back home forget the troubles and come together in celebration," he said in halting English stitched together with the help of an escort. "We can bring peace and comfort through sport. I have been told people are crying for joy on the streets."
The tall lanky Afghan began his early training in the sport in a refugee camp in Iran where his parents had fled during Taliban rule. Now, he trains in Kabul under the tutelage of his Korean coach Sin-hak Min.
The Korean was employed by the Afghanistan Olympic association in January 2006, and says that now there are about 5000 juniors who have taken to the sport in Kabul. "About a 1000 kids are good. We received a lot of good luck messages before the Olympics but I told Rohullah that one can never believe in luck. He practises more than six hours every day. That makes his luck," said Min, the man who has got the nation two medals in the short span he has worked there. The London medal in the 68kg was all the sweeter as Nikpai beat Britain's Martin Stamper. A cursory knowledge of history will tell you about the Anglo-Afghan wars and the constant skirmishes the British had with Afghan tribes.
While Beijing got him great attention back home and a home in Kabul, it hasn't helped Nikpai much in the form of finances to practise abroad or compete in tournaments. "It's a big problem. We don't have the kind of resources that other countries do. But in future, inshallah, I will be able to help other Afghan sportsmen."
Asked about just how he manages to carry on winning even though the infrastructure in his country is minimal, Nikpai has a simple answer: "I practise so very hard." Basic.