Kimia Alizadeh: Could Runaway Iranian Win the First Medal for the Refugee Team at Tokyo Olympics?

Kimia Alizadeh, a taekwondo player who became the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal in 2016, is one victory away from winning the Refugee Olympic Team's first ever medal as she progresses towards the semi-final of W-57 kg.

Double Olympic Champion Jade Jones Eliminated

Alizadeh, an Iranian refugee, knocked out double Olympic Champion Jade Jones in the round of 16, beating the British champion 16-12. She went on to defeat Zhou Lijun of China 9-8 in the quarterfinals, mounting a stirring final-minute rally for the second straight bout, reported AP.

Alizadeh, a bronze medalist in Rio de Janeiro, lost 10-3 to Russian Tatiana Minina later Sunday in the semifinals of the women's 57-kilogram division. While her gold medal dreams are over, Alizadeh could still win bronze in evening repechage.

Dramatic Face-off between Two Iranian Taekwondo Stars

Alizadeh beat Iranian opponent Nahid Kiyani Chandeh 18-9 in her opening bout in Tokyo. She followed it two hours later with a massive upset of Jones, who was attempting to become the first three-time taekwondo gold medalist and the first British woman in any sport to win gold at three consecutive Olympics.

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Could Alizadeh Win the First Medal for the Refugee Olympic Team?

Alizadeh's wins raise hopes that the Refugee Olympic Team could take home its first medal in history during the Tokyo games.

The refugee team has never won an Olympic medal in its two Games since its creation in 2016 to provide opportunities to victims of political persecution and war. Ten athletes competed in its inaugural Games in Rio, and it has three taekwondo competitors — all of them training in Germany — among its 29 athletes in Tokyo.

What led Alizadeh to leave Iran?

The taekwondo champion was celebrated in Iran when she won the Youth Olympic Games and bronze at Rio Olympics, 2016, but fled Iran in 2020 due to 'oppressed' conditions.

Alizadeh cited institutional sexism and the mandatory wearing of the hijab headscarf in her criticisms of the Iranian system when she decided to defect. In January 2020, Alizadeh announced that she was leaving Iran permanently for Europe.

She wrote an Instagram post explaining she was defecting because of constraint of women in Iran, calling herself "one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran who [Iran's rulers] have been playing with for years."

"They took me wherever they wanted. I wore whatever they said. Every sentence they ordered me to say, I repeated. Whenever they saw fit, they exploited me," she wrote, adding that credit always went to those in charge.