Ilham Zakiev: cheating death to become a national hero

By Vestnik Kavkaza
Ilham Zakiev: cheating death to become a national hero

Paralympic Ilham Zakiev is a man who cheated death to become a national hero.  British Petroleum published a spectacular video about the Azerbaijani Paralympian, Ilham Zakiev, who escaped death in the Karabakh war by a miracle and who due to the incredible strength of spirit and resilience became the double judo champion of the Paralympic Games.

Ilham Zakiev went to serve in the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan in 1998. He served in the military intelligence in the Fizuli region, in the contact area between the Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces. On February 9th 1999 during a combat mission in the village Ashagi Abdurahmanli in the Fizuli region he was seriously wounded in the head and lost his eyesight. An Armenian sniper’s bullet, entering the left temple, left the head from the right. Ilham Zakiev was in the coma for five days. There were no hopes that Ilham would survive. On the fifth day, Ilham woke up in the district hospital, by hearing a voice of his mother who was calling for him. However, opening his eyes, he saw nothing. It turned out that Zakiev became blind.

But the fighting spirit would not allow the athlete to give up. Love for the sports and homeland made him an outstanding athlete, and every Azerbaijani is proud of him today. Doctors still think that he survived due to a miracle. The National Paralympic Committee of Azerbaijan had contributed to his return to the professional sport, and he came back on November 1st 2002.

Due to a hard work and limitless training he was able to change his life, first winning the gold medal in Athens, and then repeating the same result at the Paralympic Games in Beijing. Today, the symbol of courage and valor of Azerbaijan, Ilham Zakiev, is going to conquer the Mount of Olympus for the third time in Rio de Janeiro.

“A bullet stole my eyesight. It nearly stole my life. I woke to the sound of my mother’s voice. Her love gave me the energy within, to fight again. Though I can not see her, I feel her watching, driving me on to be the best I can be,” the champion said.