Kurdish-Iranian champion weightlifter Kianoush Rostami has had close surveillance on everything he says or does. This attention has only increased exponentially after a tremendous representation at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, when Rostami took home the gold in the 85kg category, setting a new world record total weight of 396—this represents the combined value of both Snatch and Clean & Jerk.
Since this momentous outing, Rostami’s standing has risen, along with increased governmental scrutiny. To speculate, prior to his winning one of the six gold medals Iran would bring home from Rio, the weightlifter was something of a cause célèbre, for several reasons. One, as an ethnic Kurd, Rostami represents a disadvantaged minority in the nation, and their vulnerability to harassment, arrest, and imprisonment has been repeatedly investigated and noted by Amnesty International. Compounding matters further, Rostami had been ignobly dropped from Iran’s weightlifting team back in February for failing to show up for practice and coaching. This leads to an intriguing detail about the world-class Olympian: he’s entirely self-coached, and trains alone.
I will remain in my country since I love Iran. We owe much to our martyrs and war veterans. I just think about winning gold in the world.
“The Iranian coaches are good but I want to make my own decisions…Nobody thought it was possible to come to Rio without a coach but here I am,” he told reporters shortly after his Olympic win.
Let’s combine these aspects—an athlete with the proven goods, some maverick methods, as well as some shaky interactions that have not eluded the eyes of Iranian officials—with today’s new development. According to the Tehran Times, chief executive of USA Weightlifting Phil Andrews reported that Rostami had intentions to defect to the US. All applicants—not just athletes—must remain strictly devoid of these types of plans when in the process of pursuing a visa, as per Section 214(b), by “sufficiently demonstrating that you have strong ties to your home country that will compel you to leave the United States at the end of your temporary stay.” Rostami’s response to this development was swift and final: “I will remain in my country since I love Iran. We owe much to our martyrs and war veterans. I just think about winning gold in the world.”
It’s expected that Rostami would basically say anything to continue practicing his sport, and thereby make an appearance at the International Weightlifting Federation World Championships in Anaheim, California, to compete. If Rostami is indeed allowed to leave Iran, this would prove something of an additional coup on his part, in doing things his own way in an environment where many others like him toe the line as a matter of course.
No official approval for his travel has yet been issued, at time of this writing.
Iran’s Rostami sets world record in Men’s 85kg Weightlifting
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