WALNUT CREEK -- With just two weeks left until school lets out for summer, the Las Lomas High School community has suffered a devastating blow with the loss of 18-year-old junior Amir Khakimov, a fierce competitor and athlete who died Tuesday from bleeding in the brain.
A student known for his smile and called by his wrestling coach "the glue" that held the team together, Khakimov had lived in the U.S. for less than two years. His family had moved from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, so their children could have a better life, according to friends of the Khakimov family.
While working out at a fitness club May 13, Khakimov collapsed suddenly. He was rushed to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, where he underwent brain surgery. His family, friends and teammates kept vigil at the hospital for more than a week. And then on Tuesday, having suffered extensive and irreparable brain damage, Khakimov died, according to Las Lomas Principal Matt Campbell.
The young man with the "great smile" was part of two tight-knit groups at the school -- students whose second language is English, and the wrestlers, Campbell said.
Tributes for the Las Lomas junior have popped up on Facebook, with students encouraging each other to stay strong and calling Khakimov a friend, a brother and great human being.
Khakimov was the Diablo Foothill Athletic League champion in his 126-pound weight class and competed for Las Lomas at the North Coast championships this year. He was set to team captain next school year, said his coach, John Welch.
"He was probably one of the most talented kids I have ever coached," Welch said. "If you showed him a move he could probably do it by the next day -- he was always willingly to learn."
English was something he was always working on, constantly asking his teammates and coaches how to say certain things. Half of Welch's team is in the English Learners program at Las Lomas, and all of them are very close, he said. The entire team was at the hospital this past week, and Khakimov's parents are devastated, according to Welch.
"His mom told me 'it's kind of like dream,' they can't believe they brought him here for a better life and it's just over," he said.
He came from Uzbekistan with his parents and two younger brothers in October 2011. His father, Arslanbek Khakimov, is a professional, and his mother Djamila Khakimov a doctor, according to information from a family friend through wrestling mom Martha Ross. His younger brother Akmal is also on the Las Lomas wrestling team.
Friends also comment on how kind and thoughtful Amir Khakimov was, once bringing flowers to the mother of his friends whose house he was going to stay at that night.
"He was probably one of the toughest kids I have ever met in my life but was never looking for trouble," Welch said. "He was always just respectful of everyone."
A service took place Wednesday for Khakimov at the Islamic Society of the East Bay in Fremont, and a burial followed. But friends are trying to organize some kind of public memorial to accommodate the community.
The school is trying to help students with their grief. Counselors are on hand, a large sheet of paper has been set up in the rally court for students to write messages to Amir, the art gallery is open so students can create cards for the family and the Matt Miller and Gavin Powell memorial has been opened.
There has also been a fund set up to help the family. Donations can be made at any Chase Bank (Account Number: 216696727, Routing Number: 322271627) or left at the Las Lomas High School office.
Fundraising has also started on www.giveforward.com; type Amir Khakimov into the search space.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.