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What it means to be an Olympic Athlete

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What it means to be an Olympic Athlete

The Refugee Team will take part within the Paris 2024 Olympics for the third time. It can be made up of athletes acknowledged by UNHCR, the United Nations group that offers with refugees, individuals who have been pressured to flee their international locations to keep away from persecution, and who’ve discovered a protected place in one other. In Paris there can be thirty-six, 23 males and 13 girls, and they are going to be thought-about one of many many collaborating international locations, with their flag and the possibility to compete for the medal desk. The workforce abbreviation can be EOR, from the French Équipe Olympique des Réfugiés.

Two of those athletes have acquired refugee standing in Italy: Hadi Tiranvalipour, who practices taekwondo and trains in Rome, and Iman Mahdavi, who will compete in freestyle wrestling and trains in Pioltello, within the Milan hinterland. Both are from Iran, with fourteen athletes being essentially the most represented nation of origin within the refugee group. The different international locations presently current are Syria and Afghanistan, which may have 5 athletes every (in whole there are eleven international locations represented, from three completely different continents: Asia, Africa and America).

Iman Mahdavi is 29 years outdated and was born within the northern province of Iran dealing with the Caspian Sea. In Iran, wrestling is likely one of the hottest and practiced sports activities: Iranian athletes have received forty-seven Olympic medals in freestyle wrestling and Greco-Roman wrestling. Mahdavi’s father was a wrestler and for that reason he additionally began working towards this sport, he had excellent outcomes, as he received three gold and 4 silver medals within the competitions in Iran.

In 2020 Mahdavi determined to depart the nation: “I wish to be a free individual, however in Iran this isn’t potential”, he says, referring to the oppression by the dictatorial and theocratic regime that has led Iran for years. Mahdavi doesn’t follow Islam, and this in itself was sufficient to make him unacceptable to the authorities. To keep away from the hazard of endangering his household, he due to this fact left the nation, arriving on foot in Turkey with different individuals. From right here he was capable of catch a flight that took him to Italy. His mom and brothers are nonetheless in Iran and he can’t go away there: he has not seen them for 4 years.

“When I arrived I used to be confused, depressed. I did not know the language, I did not know anybody. I used to be alone, with out household and with out mates. My hope was the top of this sport.” He first settled in Gallarate (within the province of Varese) and began coaching alone, on the road, till he discovered Edoardo Bigliani, a boy from the Seggiano Wrestling Club of Pioltello, on social media. Mahdavi wrote to him and Bigliani invited him to the gymnasium.

Iman Mahdavi throughout coaching with Edoardo Bigliani (Il Post)

Wrestling is a sport with very historical origins, which was already a part of the traditional Olympic Games, which had been held within the metropolis of Olympia, Greece, for greater than a thousand years, from 776 BC to 369 AD. Modern sports activities as we speak are divided into two classes, Greco-Roman wrestling and freestyle wrestling. Both of those kinds happen in a round space, on a mat referred to as a rug. Games final six minutes, divided into two phases.

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To win, it’s essential to “pin” your opponent, that’s, knock him down and make him contact the bottom on his again, or rating extra factors than him: factors awarded by the judges for sure assaults or defenses similar to holds, bridges and reverses. In Greco-Roman wrestling, wrestlers might solely use their arms and assault their opponents above the waist solely. Free wrestling, however, which Mahdavi does, has only a few limitations: you additionally use your legs and you’ll seize your opponents even beneath the waist.

«Iman has extraordinary bodily items. The resistance, the muscular power, the pace he reveals are all uncommon: he will surely have been profitable in lots of different sports activities”, stated Giuseppe Gammarota, who’s the president of the Seggiano Fighting Club and one of many necessary individuals to incorporate Mahdavi. Giuseppe and different individuals of the membership, like his coach Victor Cazacu, helped him to get the paperwork, to purchase the mandatory issues to struggle towards life, get a job as a bouncer in a nightclub in Milan and reside in Pioltello, a municipality of about 36 thousand residents within the jap space of ​​Milan.

Mahdavi quickly confirmed that he was fighter and received some nationwide competitions. After receiving refugee standing in Italy, he was capable of begin going to Europe to take part in worldwide competitions: in 2023, as an unbiased athlete, he took twelfth place within the European Championships and eighteenth within the World Championships, at 79 kilos. class (in Paris as an alternative he’ll take part within the class of 74 kilograms). Above all, the International Olympic Committee (or IOC) program for refugee athletes assured him monetary help to coach till the summer time of 2024 and allowed him to hitch the Refugee Olympic Team. In Paris it is going to be tough for Mahdavi to struggle for a medal though he says he hopes.

Iman Mahdavi and Edoardo Bigliani (Il Post)

The first workforce of refugees was created for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016: at the moment ten athletes took half. There are twenty-nine as an alternative in Tokyo, in the summertime of 2021, whereas in Paris, as talked about, there can be thirty-six and they’re going to take part in fifteen completely different video games. Many of them are supported by IOC scholarships for refugee athletes, whereas the sports activities model Nike will present uniforms. The Refugee Olympic workforce has by no means received a medal, however has solely participated in two Olympic occasions.

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Their selection, it’s learn on the official web site of the Olympics, it was primarily based on numerous rules together with sports activities efficiency, international locations of origin and the seek for a sure steadiness between completely different sports activities and gender illustration. Moreover, clearly, within the case of refugees. According to UNHCR knowledge, in 2023 they had been there greater than 36 million individuals have been acknowledged as refugees worldwide and greater than 110 million individuals have been pressured to depart their nation on account of persecution, battle, violence and human rights violations. At the IOC, these persons are represented on the Olympics by the Refugee Olympic Team.

36 athletes for the Paris 2024 Refugee Olympic workforce

Iman Mahdavi would be the solely freestyle wrestler and there may even be a Greco-Roman wrestler, Jamal Valizadeh, an Iranian and a refugee in France. “We can be proud to characterize the Olympic Refugee Team and we are going to behave as if we’re one nation: I can be glad for my teammates and they are going to be glad for me,” stated Mahdavi, who is aware of a few of the Olympic refugees. “Obviously each athlete want to take part with the flag of their nation, however sadly this dream was not given to me. Since I can not return to Iran, I want to enter Italy at some point. If they ask me the place I’m from, as we speak I reply them refugees in Italy».

In the freestyle competitors within the 74 kilo class, Italy already has a high athlete, Frank Chamizo (from Cuba), who received gold on the World Championships in 2015 and bronze on the Olympics in 2016. However, Chamizo didn’t qualify for Paris 2024, once more on account of a controversial refereeing resolution that passed off final April in Baku, Azerbaijan. At that point, Chamizo additionally stated that they tried to bribe him to let the house participant win. «I skilled with Chamizo generally, preventing with him may be very tough, as a result of he’s actually sturdy: as an instance Chamizo is degree ten, Iman is degree zero. For me she is an instance, and in Baku everybody noticed that it was not her who made the error, however the referees.” However, on the girls’s degree, Italy has just one athlete certified to struggle on the Paris Olympics: Aurora Russo, within the 57 kg class.

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Iman Mahdavi and Frank Chamizo in 2022

The Seggiano Fighting Club gymnasium belongs to the Iqbal Masih college, which determined to shut on the day of the top of Ramadan, which triggered plenty of controversy, particularly amongst right-wing politicians. Pioltello is a city with a construction very completely different: residents come from 92 completely different international locations and 36 p.c of these beneath the age of 18 are immigrants. Perhaps additionally for that reason, Mahdavi says that in Italy he discovered nearly solely individuals who accepted and revered different cultures, as a result of he settled in them shortly.

As it’s identified that Iman Mahdavi can be within the Olympics, there’s nice pleasure in Pioltello and within the membership: “People who used to return to coach as soon as, twice a month, not too long ago they arrive each day.” Over time, he himself turned some extent of reference for many who go to the gymnasium: «I’m very glad that youngsters develop into obsessed with sports activities after seeing me“, She says. In sports activities which might be much less used, like preventing in Italy, having somebody near you to take inspiration from is necessary to draw new followers and develop as a motion.

Iman Mahdavi trains with one of many youngsters from Seggiano Fighting Club (Il Post)

However, on the finish of May, Iman Mahdavi will head to Moldova, the place he’ll keep for 2 months to coach in a really aggressive setting. It can be a really tough time to arrange, to get in the most effective situation in Paris, when the Olympics will begin on the finish of July. The males’s freestyle ultimate within the 74 kilograms class can be held on Saturday 10 August which is the ultimate day of the video games.

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