Mohammad Abbas Karimi is a swimmer, who came second in the S5 50 meter butterfly event at the 2017 World Para Swimming Championships, making him the first refugee athlete to win a medal at that competition. He has won national championship events in Afghanistan, Turkey and the US. He came eighth in the 50 meter butterfly S5 event for the Refugee Paralympic Team at the 2020 Summer Paralympics.
At the age of 16, Karimi fled Afghanistan, to escape the Taliban. In 2013, he arrived at a refugee camp in Turkey, having traveled through Iran and the Zagros Mountains. He lived in four different refugee camps in Turkey. In 2016, Karimi moved to Portland, Oregon, US, after being assisted by an American teacher and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees with his documentation for resettlement in the US. In 2019, he moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
At the age of 12, Karimi took up kickboxing. Aged 13, he took up swimming. His first competitive competition was an Afghan national championships, which he won. Whilst in Turkey, he won two national championships, and a total of 15 medals. He was unable to participate in international tournaments whilst in Turkish refugee camps, as he didn’t have the correct documentation to travel.
At the 2017 World Para Swimming Championships, Karimi won a silver medal in the S5 50 meter butterfly event. He was the first refugee athlete to win a medal at a World Para Swimming Championships. At the Championships, he also finished sixth in the S5 backstroke event. In 2018, he won the 50 meter freestyle event at the U.S. Paralympics Swimming Para National Championships. At the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships, he came sixth in the 50 meter butterfly event. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he was unable to swim for several months, as all swimming pools were closed.
In 2021, Karimi competed in the US Paralympic Trials in the 50 meter butterfly, backstroke and freestyle events. In April 2021, he won a World Para Swimming Series S5 50 meter butterfly event in Texas, US. In June, he was included in the Refugee Paralympic Team for the delayed 2020 Summer Paralympics. Karimi and Alia Issa were the Refugee Paralympic Team’s flag bearers at the Games’ opening ceremony. He competed in the 50 meter butterfly S5 event. He qualified for the final, and finished eighth overall.