What to expect from Iran’s athletes at Tokyo Olympics

TEHRAN, Jul. 23 (MNA) – Comprised of 66 athletes, Iran’s delegation to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will aim to improve the country’s rank in the medal table compared to the previous edition.

The Coronavirus pandemic disrupted almost everything in the world since late 2019 and the Tokyo Olympics was not an exception. Officials first had mulled canceling the big event but eventually, they decided to postpone it to the summer of 2021. Even today, a group of people in Japan are calling for shutting down the event as COVID-19 is raging in Tokyo.

This postponement posed a great challenge ahead of athletes as they had to keep their readiness high for one year amid a pandemic that had shut down sports facilities. Despite all difficulties, here we are counting down for the start of the much-anticipated event.

More than 11,000 athletes from 206 countries are set to participate in the major event to compete in 50 disciplines.

66 athletes, comprised of 56 men and 10 women, will represent Iran at Tokyo Olympics in 17 disciplines. Below we will take a look at Iranian athletes and teams and weigh their chances of winning medals.

What to expect from Iran’s athletes at Tokyo Olympics
Discus thrower Ehsan Hadadi

Athletics

Iran has four representatives in different events of athletics. The main hope for winning a medal was discus thrower Ehsan Haddadi but his injuries and poor performance in the league last week have cast doubt on shining in the Olympics. The London 2012 silver medalist said he even may not depart for Tokyo.

Known as the fastest Iranian athlete, Hassan Taftian will compete in men’s 100m. He won a quota place for the Tokyo Olympics in the men’s 100-meter by hitting the national record of 10.03 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris in August 2019.

Farzaneh Fasihi will compete in women’s 100-meter in Tokyo. Iran’s national record holder of 60-meters (7.25 seconds) Fasihi was awarded a Universality place. Her personal best in 100-meter is 11.78.

Mahdi Pirjahan is the last member of the team that will compete in 400-meters hurdles. The 21-year-old athlete is the national record holder of the discipline with 49.33 seconds.

What to expect from Iran’s athletes at Tokyo Olympics
Shooter Najmeh Khedmati

Shooting

The team comprises of four women and two men shooters. Najmeh Khedmati was one of the first athletes to win the Olympics quota and will represent Iran in 10m Air Rifle along with Armina Sadeghian. Fatemeh Karamzadeh in 50m Rifle 3 positions and Hanieh Rostamian in 10m Air Pistol are the next two female shooters of Iran in the event.

Javad Foroughi will compete in men’s 10m Air Pistol. With his recent gold medal at the ISSF World Cup in Osjek, Croatia, he may be one of the candidates to win a medal. Mahyar Sedaghat is the next shooter of Iran that will shoot in Men's 50m Rifle 3 positions.

What to expect from Iran’s athletes at Tokyo Olympics
Freestyle wrestler Hassan Yazdani

Freestyle Wrestling

Often described as the #1 sport discipline of Iran, wrestling can bring medals for Iran at the Olympics just like it has done so in previous editions.

Reza Atri (-57kg), Morteza Ghiasi (65kg), Mostafa Hossein Khani (74kg), Hassan Yazdani (-86kg), Mohammad Hossein Mohammadian (97kg), and Amirhossein Zare (125kg) will wrestle for medals. 

Surely, much attention and expectation will be on Hassan Yazdani to defend his 2016 Rio gold medal but a fierce American rival lies in the path, world champion David Taylor.

Also, Mohammadian’s matches are much-anticipated as he has shown promising performance this year. In Italy’s 2020 Matteo Pellicone, the wrestler downed all rivals, including the Olympics gold medalist Kyle Snyder, to win the gold without even giving one point to rivals.

What to expect from Iran’s athletes at Tokyo Olympics
 Greco-Roman wrestler Amin Mirzazadeh

Greco-Roman Wrestling

Iconic coach Mohammad Bana will guide a young team in Tokyo. Alireza Nejati (60kg), Mohammad Reza Geraei (67kg), Mohammad Ali Geraei (77kg), Mohammad Hadi Saravi (97kg), and Amin Mirzazadeh (130kg) are members of the team.

Gaining three gold medals with the Greco-Roman team in the London 2012, Bana is believed to be the most successful coach of Iran in this discipline.

“All of these five wrestlers are prodigies of our country’s Greco-Roman wrestling. So much effort has been put to grow them from junior levels and now there are here bringing fruits,” Mohammad Dalirian, a former coach of the Greco-Roman team, told IRNA in early June. This team enjoys a good chance of winning medals, he said, adding, “I am sure they will gain at least two or three medals.”

What to expect from Iran’s athletes at Tokyo Olympics
Taekwondo practioners Hadipour (L) and Hosseini

Taekwondo

Iranian taekwondo practitioners will seek to put an end to the 13-year Olympics gold medal drought. Since Hadi Saei, the most decorated Iranian Olympian, gained a gold in the 2008 Beijing, the Iranian team has failed to touch the gold.

Armin Hadipour (Men's -58 kg), Mirhashem Hosseini (Men’s -68 kg), and Nahid Kiani (Women’s -57kg) will fight in Tokyo.

Since the 2000 Sydney, taekwondo was added to the list of medal winning disciplines in Iran. The first official medal was snatched by Hadi Saei in Sydney and it was a bronze. The discipline has won two gold, one silver, and three bronze medals for Iran at different editions of the summer Olympics.

What to expect from Iran’s athletes at Tokyo Olympics
Weightlifter Ali Davoudi

Weightlifting

Out of 69 medals that Iranians have won in the Olympics so far, 19 medals (9 gold, 5 silver, 5 bronze) have been snatched by weightlifters. However, this year, it seems that Iranian lifters have a harder challenge ahead.

Sohrab Moradi and Kianoush Rostami, the two gold medalists of the 2016 Rio, failed to win quotas and Iran will be represented by Ali Hashemi (109kg) and Ali Davoudi (+105kg).

Experts believe with the personal records that Hashemi and Davoudi have registered, there is a low chance of achieving gold in the Olympics. Hashemi finished the 2016 Rio in fifth place while the 22-year-old Davoudi is participating in his first Olympics.

In women’s category, Parisa Jahanfekrian was handed a surprise quota to the 2020 Olympics in early July after a Samoan lifter withdrew from 87kg category. However, Jahanfekrian had already performed surgery on her arm and failed to become the first female Iranian weightlifter to participate in the Olympics.

What to expect from Iran’s athletes at Tokyo Olympics
National volleyball team of Iran

Volleyball

Iranian men’s national volleyball team will have its second appearance in the summer Olympics. In the 2016 Rio, the team finished 5th.

The discipline has had significant growth in Iran in the past 15 years or so after good work in junior levels. And the current senior team is the result of all the efforts made during these years.

With the aim of achieving podium at the Olympics, the Iranian federation signed Russian Vladimir Alekno as the head coach of the team. Alekno’s team headed to Italy in June 2021 to participate in the FIVB Volleyball Nation League. 10 losses and five wins cannot be considered promising but the tournament has given Alekno a good understanding of the players.

It may the last chance for stars such as iconic setter Saeed Marouf and middle blocker Seyyed Mohammad Mousavi to win a global podium.

The team is drawn in Pool A of the event along with the host Japan, Canada, Italy, Poland, and Venezuela.

Surely, Iranian fans will have stressful moments in front of TVs to cheer for their beloved team.

What to expect from Iran’s athletes at Tokyo Olympics
Iran's national basketball team

Basketball

This will be the second appearance of Iran’s basketball team in the summer Olympics, the first one was in the 2008 Beijing. The team has been handed a tough group and will have to take on the 15-time Olympics champion US, two-time Olympics silver medalist France, and Czech in the preliminary round.

The Olympics basketball opener will be held between Iran and Czech on Sunday.

Experts do not expect an advance to the next stage from this group and a defendable performance may be the aim of the team in the competitions.

What to expect from Iran’s athletes at Tokyo Olympics
Karateka Hamideh Abbasali

Karate

Tokyo Olympics will be the first to host karate and it also may be the last. Japan added the sport to the list under certain IOC guidelines that allow Olympics hosts to include provisional new events.

Iran’s hopefuls in kumite are Sajjad Ganjzadeh (men's +75 kg), Sara Bahmanyar (women's 55 kg), and Hamideh Abbasali (women's +61 kg).

These fighters have brought about several medals for their country in the past several years in different world events and winning medals in the Olympics cannot be considered impossible.

What to expect from Iran’s athletes at Tokyo Olympics
Fencer Mojtaba Abedini

Fencing

This can become one of the history-making disciplines for Iran. Comprised of Mojtaba Abedini, Ali Pakdaman, Mohammad Rahbari, and Mohammad Fotouhi, the Iranian team will compete in men’s fencing team sabre.

Also, Mojtaba Abedini, Ali Pakdaman, and Mohammad Rahbari will fight individual sabre. Abedini won a bronze medal in the 2019 World Fencing Championships to make history, becoming the first Iranian fencer to win a medal in world championships. He also finished the previous Olympics fourth. The 36-year-old has aimed to add an Olympics medal to his tally before retirement.

What to expect from Iran’s athletes at Tokyo Olympics
From left to right: Balsini, Vaziri, Aghaei, Alamian, and Safarzadeh

The six remaining disciplines

Iran will also have representatives in six other disciplines but the chances of winning any medal can be considered to be low.

Saeed Safarzadeh will compete in cycling’s road race, Milad Vaziri in men’s individual archery, Nima Alamian in men’s singles of table tennis, Matin Balsini in men’s 200m butterfly swimming, and Soraya Aghaei in women’s single badminton.

Danial Shahbakhsh (men's featherweight) and Shahin Mousavi (men's middleweight) will also represent Iran in men’s boxing.

The final word

Much of Iran’s hopes are focused on Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling and then comes karate and taekwondo. All in all, history has shown that the Olympics can be full of surprises.

News Code 176419

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