Kimia Alizadeh: From Iranian Olympian To Refugee

Kimia Alizadeh: From Iranian Olympian To Refugee

Kimia Alizadeh is an exceptional human being. In the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, she took home a bronze medal in taekwondo. But that isn’t what makes Alizadeh special. Kimia Alizadeh was born in Karaj, Iran. Just before the Olympic Games, Alizadeh defected from her home country, somewhere she lived and called home for 22 years, to escape an oppressive regime that showed no respect to women and used her as a pawn to bring glory to the regime that oppresses her.

Iran is no saint, as we’ve already discussed. In addition to killing Navid Afkari and several other athletes, we’ve talked about Saied Mollaei being forced out of matches to avoid facing Israeli opponents. But Kimia Alizadeh has had a double edge sword. In addition to having to do everything for the government, she’s also a woman in Iran which ranks 113 out of 162 countries on the United Nations Development Programme Gender Inequality Index.

Kimia Alizadeh: Owed Everything, Given Nothing

Kimia Alizadeh is Iran’s only woman to win a medal. In 2016, she took home the bronze and was destined for glory at 18, as some would think. But, only bad times would come for Alizadeh. Alizadeh was forced to do everything told to her by the Iranian regime, wearing what they ordered, and going where they told her. For an athlete bringing glory to her country and making history in 2016. Alizadeh was not very appreciated.

Alizadeh was fed up. From giving everything she had for her country, her accomplishments meant nothing. She grew tired of seeing women mistreated by one of the most cruel regimes in the world. She had trained all her life in taekwondo and brought nothing but glory to her country. She was the World Junior Taekwondo Champion, the Youth Olympic Taekwondo champion and took bronze in the 15 World Taekwondo Championship. Throw the bronze medal in Rio on top of it and you’d think she could make a little headway on equal rights.

In January 2020, Alizadeh’s conscious got the best of her. She was the only Olympic medalist in Iran’s history and she was still mistreated. Imagine what the woman who didn’t bring glory to Iran’s regime on a world stage had to go through. She left her country, defecting and posting about it on social media, having no home to go to.

Her travels took her to the Netherlands and Germany. Iran tried to hold her back and didn’t allow her to leave the team and blocked her from competing internationally. Alizadeh found solace on the IOC Refugee Team.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Kimia Alizadeh: From Iranian Olympian To Refugee

Much like Mollaei, Alizadeh had more than just the pressure of competing at the Olympics on her shoulders. She represented hope for all of the women who looked to her as an example of a good thing from a bad place.

Kimia Alizadeh was labeled an enemy of the state, she was drug by her government, and all eyes were on her. When she won her first medal in 2016 she said, “Surely all the public in Iran are very pleased and happy to see my achievement. There is no restriction for female activities in [Iranian] sport and I hope from now on there will be lots of medals to follow.” As we know, that was the state talking.

Her first opponent in Tokyo: Nahid Kiyani Chandeh of Iran. Like a movie, it was the regime staring her in the face, daring Alizadeh to be great. But, Iran knew what was at stake and many thought that Iran would force Chandeh to disqualify herself. But Iran’s hubris was their downfall. Chandeh hoped to win the gold medal, much like every other athlete in Tokyo. Perhaps she hoped to do the same as Alizadeh and potentially shed light on the inequality for women in Iran. But, she was a puppet of the state and Alizadeh would provide more of an impact.

Systematically, Alizadeh beat Chandeh convincingly, 18-9, doubling up the Iranian representative’s points. But there was no ill will for Chandeh from Alizadeh. The two embraced after their match, a sign of respect.

Kimia Alizadeh would not be done with her statement. Next up was the two time Olympic champion, Jade Jones of Britian. Alizadeh defeated her as well. Next, she defeated China’s Lijun Zhou. But these two victories dulled in comparison to the impact made by defeating Nahid Kiyani Chandeh. It wasn’t the gold medal that was the biggest mountain for Alizadeh, it was where she was from, her past.

Alizadeh was forced to face her demons in her first bout of the Olympic Games. While she fell to Tatiana Minima in her next fight, she had a chance for bronze against Turkey’s Hatice Ilgun. She lost a close match there too. She was dejected and defeated emotionally. Alizadeh hoped to free herself from being tied to the Iranian regime with her bronze medal in 2016. She had failed that.

But, perhaps, what Alizadeh did in her first match was more impactful. Like Saied Mollaei, she didn’t win the gold medal, but she gave those hoping for a better life hope. Hope that they can escape the chains of the Iran persecution that’s been going on for decades. Hope that life can be better.

The future is at her fingertips now. Should Kimia Alizadeh decide to become a three time Olympian, be it for the IOC Refugee Team or for Germany, the choice is hers. She doesn’t need to do so however. She’s proven that she is an exceptional human being. She stared down the devil in the eyes and declared that she is her own person.

I’ve covered Iran for some time now. Please brush up on all the stories below to know just how bad the country can be. #UnitedForNavid

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Blaine Henry

Just your friendly neighborhood fight fan!

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