Many people at AISB may not know that PE teacher Arif Akhundov, who goes by “Mr. Arif,”   was once an athlete himself—an Olympic athlete for the nation of Azerbaijan. He ran the 100 meters in 11.11 seconds at the 1996 Summer Olympics. 

What follows is Mr. Arif’s story, in his own words:

“I was always dreaming of being a pro athlete. I was a pro athlete for about 10 years and, within that time frame, I represented my country through most of the international tournaments. It was a dream to do it well and properly. I never thought that I would make it to [the tournaments] but closer to [the Olympics] I became more well-oriented. My best memory was meeting many many great athletes. I had a chance to talk to many of them about life training and methods, it was really inspirational. 

I was an athlete when I started teaching as well, in 1998. However, I ended my career in 2000 just months before the Sydney Olympic games. So, I was combining a lot of things like coaching, teaching, and training (as a pro athlete I had a couple of trainings a day).

I started teaching in 1998, in a very small international school in the city of Baku. Then I moved to a different school in Baku, an IB school called The International School of Azerbaijan. Then I moved to Uzbekistan at Tashkent International School for five years there. And in 2015, my family moved to Romania. I’ve been teaching at AISB for nine years. 

I love working with students and helping them out, and what kind of impact we, as teachers, can really have on their lives, inside and outside of our AISB community.

I don’t feel any regret [about switching careers] because we all have to make good choices, and I made the right one. At that moment my son was born, so I had to prioritize him. I went and got a job and focused full time on it, as being a pro athlete wasn’t a sustainable career for me.

I am very satisfied with my career. The performances, too, but the most important for me were the memories and the people I met throughout my career. It made me stronger and more knowledgeable about athletics.”