The Iranian athlete who made history at Rio

August 7, 2016

When archer Zahra Nemati carried the Iranian flag into the Maracana Stadium on Friday, she broke new ground for the Islamic country.Never before had a woman led Iran’s team in an athletes’ parade in the Opening Ceremony.

Arriving at the stadium in a wheelchair, wearing a green head covering, Nemati was the flagbearer for a team made up mostly of men.

It was quite an entry for the 31-year-old Nemati in her first Olympics. She had hoped to represent Iran at the Olympics much earlier in life, and in taekwondo rather than archery.

A car accident, which left her paralysed, put the former black belt on a new sporting path. She chose archery a few years later, simply because she “wanted to do some sport.”

Unlike most athletes, Nemati won’t just be spending part of August here. She will be back next month for the Paralympics, where she’s the defending champion in the individual recurve (W1/W2).

Nemati started her ambitious journey to a first Olympic medal during the qualifying round at the Sambadrome. She shot 72 arrows to finish with a score of 609 and the 49th spot. The results from the qualifying round will be used to determine the seedings for the tournament.

“I want to realise my goal: making my family and the people around me happy and letting them know I’m strong,” she said.

Nemati has been named a United Nations ambassador for her role in empowering women through sport. She is hoping that others who are in a similar situation will follow her example. “For me, it means a lot to make people who have big problems in their lives happy,” said Nemati.


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