Iranian archer Zahra Nemati, champion and committed woman

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Iranian Zahra Nemati is already a legend. She is one of the few athletes to have participated in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. In Tokyo, the one who wants to be an example for sportswomen around the world is aiming for a third Paralympic title.

For the past ten years, Iranian archer Zahra Nemati has dominated his discipline. She has won all the titles possible. Double gold medalist at the Paralympic Games, she will try, Friday, August 27 in Tokyo, to win a third consecutive title.

However, it was not in this sport that she first excelled. Younger, she practices taekwondo. Black belt, she is unfortunately forced to stop practicing it after a serious car accident in 2004. The young woman finds herself paralyzed.

Qualified for the Olympic and Paralympic Games

Having become paraplegic, Zahra Nemati does not give up sport. She tries her hand at archery and is particularly gifted. In the space of six months, she participated in the Iranian national championship and finished third alongside the able-bodied. She is invited to join the country team.

The titles are linked. In 2011, she won her first individual silver medal at the Paralympic Worlds. The following year, she won gold at the Paralympic Games in London. Her results were so impressive that she managed to qualify for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio four years later. A first since the Italian Paola Fantato in Atlanta in 1996. The Iranian champion finally ranks 33e at the Olympics and clinched his second gold at the Paralympic Games.

For her, this double participation represents a sporting success, but also a means of fighting against the stereotypes that accompany people with disabilities. “I thought it could be a turning point in the mentality of people, especially in the way they view people with disabilities, so it was a special experience for me,” she explained. on the official website of the Olympic Games.

“Women and girls can achieve their best”

Zahra Nemati is not only a great champion, she also wants to be an example. She fights to defend the rights of people with disabilities all over the world. Earlier this year, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) awarded him the Next Generation Leader Award on International Women’s Day for its work to raise awareness of the inclusion of women and people with disabilities.

More broadly, she is proud to also represent the sportswomen of her country. In 2016, in Rio, she was chosen as Iran’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the Olympics. A very symbolic image for a country governed by Islamic law and which prohibits the practice of certain sports for women. “This moment was very special for me, to prove that my country has a special place for women,” she explains. “This means that women and girls can achieve their best despite the many challenges they face.”

Zahra Nemati, her country’s flag bearer at the Rio Olympics. Franck Fife, AFP

The archer is in a good position to find out. His career has not been a long quiet river. In 2017, her husband, with whom she was cold, had wanted to ban her from traveling and had filed a complaint. “After the Rio Games, Zahra (Nemati) left home and refused to come back despite several calls”, he justified at the time, as recounted the website of the Center for Human Rights in Iran : “She even filed for divorce, so I banned her from traveling, she will no longer be able to compete in a tournament abroad.” According to Iranian law, spouses can in fact prevent their wives from going abroad.

Fortunately, despite this request from her husband, the Iranian authorities went in the direction of the champion and she was able to continue to go to international competitions. Zahra Nemati is present in Tokyo where she has once again been chosen as standard bearer.

A competitor at heart, the archer admits of course aiming for gold again, but after months of pandemic and forced shutdown, she especially enjoys being able to participate in this event: “I wish everyone athletes from all over the world to win trophies and medals in all events. Whether it’s the Olympic or Paralympic Games, it doesn’t make any difference. It will be the most memorable event for all the athletes in Tokyo. “


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