In January 2020, Kimia Alizadeh fled her home country, saying she felt she was just one of the “millions of oppressed women in Iran”.
Eighteen months later, the 23-year-old stunned Britain’s two-time Olympic taekwondo champion Jade Jones in Tokyo and came agonisingly close to becoming the first athlete from the International Olympic Committee’s refugee team to win a medal.
She is no stranger to Olympic success, having won bronze at Rio 2016 – Iran’s first ever medal for a woman – but it was the scrutiny that followed that led her to leave the country.
Upon returning to Iran after the Games, she said authorities treated her like a “tool” and that she would rather risk being homeless than stay in Iran any longer.
“I was not important to them. None of us are important to them,” she said.
She travelled to Germany where she was granted asylum, but Iranian government officials quickly denounced her decision. She received threats via social media.
“It was really hard,” she told the Olympic channel. “You change your country, you change your language. Everything changes, and it’s a lot of pressure on your mind. But I think taekwondo helped me in that hard year. When I am training I don’t think about anything”.
She had hoped to officially change her allegiance to the German national team but the Iranian Taekwondo Association has blocked her competing for any other nation. She had not formally competed since 2018.
So when it came to competing in her second Olympic Games, Alizadeh qualified and was selected to join the Refugee team (EOR) – a group of 29 athletes funded by IOC scholarships.
“I thought [after leaving Iran] I would have to leave my sport but now I can be a free woman and do my sport. I can have both together,” said Alizadeh, who is nicknamed the ‘tsunami’.
After losing the semi-final to Russian fighter Tatiana Minina, she missed out on that gold medal and also lost in the bronze medal bout, meaning the wait for an EOR medal goes on.
Fonte: BBC News