Copyright Sportestan Publishing
By Hooshyar Naraghi
Menlo Park, California
Out of joy, I was brought to tears when I noticed the recognition given to the late wrestler, Gholam Reza Takhti in a book known in the sports community as the de facto Olympics encyclopedia.
In the 1996 Edition of The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics compiled by David Wallechinsky, pages 782, 784 and 785, Takhti's name is listed as "J. P. Gholam Reza Takhti."
This is the first time the initials "J. P." has been assigned to Takhti in any Olympics history book published outside Iran. J. P. means "Jahan Pahlevan," (world champion) a Persian expression only bestowed upon the late Takhti by the Iranian public in the late 1950's and early 1960's.
In the book, no other wrestler is entrusted with this title. The initials do not appear in the previous edition of the same book. And in the new edition, the initials JP remain the only non-English, and in fact the only initial assigned to any Olympics champion. I consider this a small gift by the author to Iranians at the threshold of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.
Almost 30 years after his death, Takhti remains the most popular athlete in Iranian sports. People fell in love with his dignity and humanity since his debut in 1950. His mysterious death in 1968 at the early age of 38 brought deep sorrow to the masses. The whole country was in mourning. The streets of Tehran were filled with hundreds of thousands grieving fans observing their last tribute to their hero.
Hardly anyone believed the official announcement claiming Takhti's death was due to suicide. It was then that the masses gave him the honorary title of shahid (martyr) at a time when the use of such a title especially for popular personalities could have resulted in severe political repercussions.
But regardless of the circumstances of his death, Takhti is lovingly remembered as Jahan Pahlevan. He was the contemporary link to Ferdowsi's Shahnameh (The Book of Kings); the modern incarnation of the mythical Pahlevan Pooriya-ye Vali, revered not only for his strength but his humility.
Takhti competed in the international freestyle wrestling arena for 16 consecutive years, a world record matched only by the German wrestler Wilfried Dietrich. He presented Iran with three gold and seven silver medals during that period. He remains one of only two Iranian athletes -- along with weightlifter Mohammad Nassiri -- to have participated in four Olympics.
Seeing Takhti's title in an authoritative Olympics reference book boosted my spirits. I hope it will be a source of pride to all of you as well. May JP Takhti forever rest in peace.
The author is the publisher of The Iranian Sports Homepage at: