Gladiator Nomad

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Give Nomad any challenge and he'll literally rise to the occasion. But for this 21-year-old Adelaide gladiator, it's not always the physical strength he counts on.

"When I face a challenge, I think back on the things that I've been through, the difficulties, it makes the challenges in front of me look so much smaller," Ali tells us.

Ali Ahmadi may be a television superhero now�he even has body building titles under his belt and a raft of trophies to prove it�but the road to stardom has been far from smooth.

"I just had to be brave and understand the situation and shut out my feelings and just move forward," he says. "I knew it was no longer safe for me and I had to leave."

Born in Central Afghanistan, for Ali it started out as a happy, carefree childhood.

"I used to practice Kung Fu all the time and my teacher, he taught me a lot about Kung Fu and about life. I was always training."

That is until the Taliban insurgency turned his�and everyone else's�world upside down.

"Many boys got taken away that never came back, and it was going to happen to me," he says.

At the tender age of 13, his parents reluctantly put his fate into unknown hands in the hope their son would seek refuge in a safer place.

On a rickety wooden boat with 150 other refugees crammed on board, Ali had no idea where he was headed�alone and without his family, the harrowing journey lasted eight days.

"The boat was quite small. We didn't even have enough room to spread our legs. One night in particular I remember it was very bad weather. Stormy, heavy rain, the waves were crashing on the boat people, the families and the children were crying and everyone was praying to God that they'd survive that night. Everyone thought that was it, they were going to die," says Ali.

"I was scared for sure. I thought: 'is this it? Is this the night that I'm going to die'?"

The boat was eventually intercepted by Customs, and Ali was sent straight to the Woomera Detention Centre, in the South Australian outback.

"That's when I realised: I'm going to make something of my life, not only for myself, I'm going to do something good to help others that will make a positive difference in other people's lives."

When he was finally granted freedom. It was under the care of his Adelaide foster family that Ali began the quest to make that difference. He had a private college education and went on to become a personal trainer.

Through charities, Ali took his skills to the top end, even raising money to help other refugees. Life was beginning to take shape, but still something was missing.

His thoughts always drifted home to Afghanistan. The problem was though, his family was no longer there�they had fled to Pakistan.

But, again, nothing was going to get in Ali's way.

"First time I called them up there was silence, we said hello and there was silence. She started crying and I started crying too. We couldn't talk. I tried to be brave, I tried to hold my feelings in, but it just came out thru my eyes... tears."

He tracked them down alright.

His mum, dad, three sisters and two brothers now all live here in Adelaide, back to living the happy life they were for many years so cruelly denied.

His young brothers are as proud as punch�his biggest fans, who even went along to Ali's first Gladiator audition.

"They were getting bored because I was at the back of the line. I waited there for an hour but the line didn't move much so I decided to come back home," he says.

Luckily for all of us, friends encouraged him to return to the audition. Ali even missed a friend's wedding but passed the gruelling test, and has now become one of Australia's favourite Gladiators.

"Ali, your motto is: 'the past is dead, the future unborn' and that you live for the moment: Do you wish you could erase any of your past?" asked Rosanna.

"No, I do not wish to erase anything. I think everything that has happened has happened for a purpose. It's definitely made me stronger and wiser. It's shaped my life, it's made me who I am and I do not regret anything," Ali responded.

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