Iranian refugee on verge of medal after 3 taekwondo victories

Iranian defector Kimiya Alizadeh is one win away from winning the refugee Olympic team’s first medal after three impressive victories at the Tokyo Games taekwondo tournament.

TOKYO: Iranian defector Kimiya Alizadeh is one win away from winning the refugee Olympic team’s first medal after three impressive victories in the Tokyo Games taekwondo tournament.

Alizadeh defeated two-time Olympic gold medalist Jade Jones in the Round of 16 to beat the British champions 16–12. She beat Zhou Lijun of China 9-8 in the quarterfinals to advance a last-minute rally for a second straight match.

Bronze medalist Alizadeh will take on Russian Tatiana Minina in the women’s 57kg semi-final on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro.

Alizadeh, 23, became the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal when she pushed through repechage in Rio, but she is competing for the refugee team after moving to Germany in early 2020. He did not compete between 2018 and this. Years due to injuries prior to departure from Iran.

The refugee team has never won an Olympic medal in its two sports since its inception in 2016 to provide opportunities to victims of political persecution and war. Ten athletes competed in its inaugural Games in Rio, and it has three taekwondo competitors – all training in Germany – among its 29 athletes in Tokyo.

Alizadeh became an 18-year-old hero in Iran for her Olympic success, but cited institutional sexism and wearing a hijab headscarf as mandatory in criticisms of the Iranian system when she decided to defect. She slammed Iran for using Iran for propaganda in an emotional letter announcing her defection on social media, calling the decision “harder than earning Olympic gold”.

The Tokyo Games’ postponement due to the pandemic helped Alizadeh reach the Olympics again: she was granted refugee status in Germany last February, allowing her to compete in European qualifiers.

Alizadeh opened his first run in Tokyo defeating his close friend Kiyani, who wore a headscarf for his bout. Alizadeh kept her head uncovered and her hair free in the Makuhari Messe Convention Center hall. He later accepted the Iranian coaching staff.

Alizadeh upset Jones with a remarkable third-round rally. Their match was tied 10-10 with only 30 seconds left, but Alizadeh took the lead before moving on to a four-point victory with a pair of two-point body kicks.

Alizadeh screamed and celebrated with his coach, while a small crowd of Olympians and support personnel in the arena erupted with astonished roars in the biggest upset of the Taekwondo tournament.

Zhou took a 6–4 lead in the third round of her quarterfinal, but Alizadeh tied it on a body kick with 90 seconds remaining. Alizadeh jumped three points ahead with 40 seconds on a dramatic head kick, but Zhou later responded with a two-point body kick.

Alizadeh avoided trouble in the final second and hung on for a win that left her flat on her back to the mat in celebration.

Alizadeh is very popular on social media, where she added several thousand more fans to her Instagram account soon after her victory over Jones.

She was the latest in a series of high-profile defections from the Iranian sporting system by athletes dissatisfied with the government’s treatment and policies.

In April, the International Judo Federation suspended Iran for four years after the nation refused to allow its fighters to face Israel. The IJF said Iran’s policies were exposed when former Iranian judo competitor Saeed Molai claimed he was ordered to lose the semi-finals of the 2019 World Championships in Tokyo to avoid facing world champion Sagi Muki of Israel in the final. had gone.

Mollai lost to Germany in 2019, and he is representing Mongolia at the Tokyo Olympics when competition begins on Tuesday.

Alireza Faghani, a prominent international football referee, left Iran for Australia in 2019.


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