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Number Seven Thousand Six Hundred and One - 10 July 2024
Iran Daily - Number Seven Thousand Six Hundred and One - 10 July 2024 - Page 6

Iranians eager to restore taekwondo success in Paris

By Amirhadi

Staff writer

Four Iranians will be looking to end the country’s eight-year wait for an Olympic medal when the taekwondo competitions of the Paris Games get underway.
Kimia Alizadeh’s historic -57kg bronze in Rio 2016 – the only Olympic medal won by an Iranian girl to date – remains the last taekwondo achievement for the country in the sporting extravaganza as the occasion in Tokyo three years ago was the first in six editions to yield no success for the Iranian representatives.
Hadi Saei, the head of the national governing body of the sport, wrote his name into history books in Sydney 2000 when he grabbed a first taekwondo medal for Iran – a men’s -68kg bronze – and went on to become the country’s most-decorated Olympian of all time by winning back-to-back golds in 2004 and 2008.
Yousef Karami took the men’s -80kg bronze in Athens 2004 before Mohammad Baqeri-Mo’tamed settled for the men’s -68kg silver in London 2012 as the taekwondo contests have been the third-most productive event – following wrestling and weightlifting – for Iran in the history of the Olympics with six medals.
And now four Iranians will be hoping to add to the haul at the four-day taekwondo showpiece in the French capital’s Grand Palais – starting August 7.
Nahid Kiani will headline the Iranian squad in Paris, stepping into the women’s -57kg contests as the reigning world bantamweight champion.
Her -53kg triumph in Baku last year marked a first women’s gold for Iran throughout the 26 editions of the World Championships and the 25-year-old will be keen to notch up another milestone medal in Paris.
As if Kiani needed more motivation to go all out for an Olympic medal, a successful campaign in Paris will provide her with personal redemption after she crashed out of the Tokyo Olympics in the most controversial fashion.
She fell to a first-round defeat against her fellow-Iranian Alizadeh, who represented the IOC Refugee Team in Tokyo, and, in an interview with Varzesh3 in January, Kiani said overcoming the mental struggles in the aftermath of the loss was “one of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life.”
“The bout was a one-off occasion in the Olympic history and I was devastated by the fact that a part of my compatriots cheered my opponent’s victory, which is why I had to seek professional help from a therapist,” she said.
Joining Kiani in the women’s draw will be 19-year-old prodigy Mobina Ne’matzadeh, who will be looking to build on an impressive run over the past two years when taking part in the -49kg event.
A world junior champion in 2022, Ne’matzadeh won the Asian silver in the same year and then picked up the bronze in last year’s Asian Games, coupled with a couple of bronze medals in the World Taekwondo Grand Prix, before punching her Paris ticket in March’s Asian Qualification Tournament in Tai’an, China.
Iran will also be represented by two athletes in the men’s competitions.
Mehran Barkhordari will be part of the -80kg draw, with Arian Salimi chasing a medal in the +80kg contests.
Barkhordari finished third in the 2022 world event but suffered an early exit last year in Baku, though he has fond memories of the French capital as he claimed the gold in the second series of the Grand Prix in Paris last September.
He also fell to a last-four loss to former world champion Park Woo-hyeok of South Korea in the Asian Games and settled for a consolation bronze.
Salimi, meanwhile, will hope to improve on his 2023 world bronze.
The Iranian came short in the final showpiece against China’s Song Zhaoxiang in the Asian Games but bounced back to cruise to the gold at the Asian Championships in May, thanks to a final victory over South Korean Park.

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