By: Zohreh Abdollahkhani
The second day of Olympic taekwondo action at the Makuhari Messe Hall in Tokyo began with an interesting matchup between the Refugee Olympic Team’s Kimia Alizadeh and Iran’s Nahid Kiani. Prior to 2020, the two taekwondo athletes were actually teammates in Iran.
Alizadeh won bronze for Iran in the 2016 Rio Olympics, becoming the first and only female Iranian Olympic medalist. In January 2020, she made an announcement in Instagram: “I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran who they have been playing with for years.” She further adds that she is tired of the “hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery, and being used as a tool.” Following the announcement, she moved to Germany and became part of the Refugee Olympic Team.
The Refugee Olympic team consists of 29 athletes where two of every five female athletes are originally from Iran. Iran is only second to Syria in terms of the number of athletes who left their country of origin with a total of five.
Despite facing criticism from the I.R. Iran’s sports officials and media for her defection, many people left her encouraging words stating their support and understanding for her decision. Alizadeh still maintains good relations with her former teammates, even sending a congratulatory message to her former compatriot Kiani for earning a quota place and qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The two friends, however, were drawn together in their first Tokyo 2020 match for the Women’s -57kg event. In what will probably be one of the most sensitive matches for Iran at the Games, the 23-year-old Alizadeh faced the Olympic debutant Kiani and her coach Mahroo Komrani, who spotted Alizadeh’s exceptional talent at the age of 7 and coached her at Rio. Despite Alizadeh’s triumph over her former teammate with a score of 18-9, popular sentiment considers this as a lose-lose scenario for both parties.
Kiani, defeated by Alizadeh was eliminated in the first round and Alizadeh barely misses medal to turkey’s Hatice kubra.
Edited by Aldo Tong