Today and yesterday's champions
While Iranian weightlifters scoop gold, previous
champions struggle to survive
By Dr. Mohammad Ala
November 26, 2003
The 73rd men's and 16th women's World Weightlifting
Championship took place inVancouver,
Canada from 11th through 22nd November 2003.
Similar to Wrestling, Weightlifting is a sport whose
history in world competitions spans across three centuries: from
1891 through the 20th century. Iran
officially participated in international competition in 1939 when the Weightlifting
Federation of Iran was founded.
The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF)
today is comprised of 167 countries; over ten thousand weightlifters
participate in official competitions
Although no world record was broken by Iranians athletes, they did well in
Vancouver, earning second in number of total medals and fifth in total points
who won gold in the 77 kg category, was announced "Weightlifter of the World" in
Because of its total points, Iran has been qualified
to send at least six athletes to the 2004 Athens Olympic games.
I was one of the people who followed the Vancouver
Championship games very closely. The
climax of excitement was when our 2002 World and 2000 Olympic champion,
Hossein Rezazadeh, won the heavy weight gold medal.
While surfing the website for this year's events,
I ran into a piece of information which caught my attention. There
was another Iranian hero mentioned, namely Mohammad Nasiri, who
now lives and works in Vancouver, Canada. Through some
friends I learned that Nasiri is working in a small restaurant
in North Vancouver, cleaning tables and helping out in the kitchen.
those who do not know Nasiri,
he won world championships for Iran
in 1968, 69, 70, 73, and 1974. In addition, he won many
other titles, including points and medals in the following Olympic
Games: 1964, 1968 (Gold), 1972 (Silver),
and 1976 (Bronze).
I met Nasiri in a cold winter day in Tehran in 1976
in front of Bank Markazi at Ferdousi Street. I told him that
we loved him for what he had accomplished for Iran. He told
me that, although he had a shoulder injury, Iran's weightlifting
him to lift weights in an upcoming
international event. He was worried about further injury to his
When I shared Nasiri's plight with a friend, he mentioned
a story in the Iran Sport magazine in the 1970's about a Bulgarian
on Nasiri's world championship performance. The person who
was admired by many athletes all over the world and brought us Olympic
gold and five world
championship is now washing dishes inVancouver, Canada.
I have no knowledge of what caused him to move abroad
nor why he is seemingly forgotten in Iran. Certainly, washing dishes
is nothing to be ashamed of to ensure economic survival. But
I cannot help feeling shame for a people who have allowed their
legend fall on such hard times in a foreign land.
Of course, the
weightlifting federation should have helped him in some way, but
we the Iranian people also share
We cannot rely on the federation to take care of our heroes. In
a city and continent full of rich Iranians, who by the thousands
pay several hundreds of
dollars to attend a concert or see a show, couldn't Iranians create
an organization to care for people like him?
It is painful to imagine
that one day a recent hero such as Hossein Rezazadeh, who rejected
a $10 million Turkish federation offer
of cash and a house,
might end up washing dishes, because he loved his country and did
not want to sell
his soil and pride for the luxury which many Iranians now enjoy. Mahmoud
Namjoo, another hero who won Olympic medals, received no assistance
in his time of sickness from either the Iranian federation or the
community and was only
remembered after he died.
There is no reason to wait until
our heroes are gone. Many
Iranians are splurging their money on non-essential materials. They
have gotten their priorities wrong; then they are unhappy regarding
our current international status.
I believe that the members of
the Iranian community in Canada are no better off than they are
in the USA. They rarely support
each other. I
have more respect for people who wash dishes and are proud of who
they are than for
those who change their names and forget where they came from.
major thing that no one can ever take away from Namjoo and Nasiri
is the love and fondness that many Iranians have for them. We
will remember and praise them for their world record breaking feats
even as we jumped up and down
while we were watching them. They will be not forgotten,
as long as there are Iranians who cherish their accomplishments
Dr. Mohammad Ala teaches Production and Operations
Management both in Iran and
in the USA at California State University, Los Angeles. He is a board
member of persiangulfonline.org, president
of iic.org and the
of iran-heritage.org and iranalliance.org.
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