OLYMPICS: Alizadeh Aiming for Taekwondo Gold With Bulgaria After Fleeing Iran

REUTERS/Kayhan Life: Kimia Alizadeh made history by becoming the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal in 2016, and while she’s now defected from her country of birth, the taekwondo athlete is aiming for gold this year in Paris.

Alizadeh won bronze in the 57kg category in Rio but left Iran in 2020 and, after competing at the Tokyo Olympics for the Refugee Olympic Team, the 25-year-old is now representing her new home, Bulgaria.

Alizadeh missed out on a medal at the last Olympics but after securing her place in Paris, she has high hopes when she participates under the Bulgarian flag.

“Of course, it was extra motivation for me after I received my Bulgarian citizenship, everything is much easier for me,” she told Reuters.

Alizadeh did have other offers, with the likes of Belgium and the Netherlands looking for her to represent them, but in the end, she went with her heart and chose Bulgaria.

Having already faced an Iranian opponent at the last Olympics, Alizadeh won’t be fazed if it happens again, even if it is a strange emotion for her.

“This is the fight, this is the game, and every athlete is doing their best to represent their country,” she said.

Alizadeh became a hero for Iranian women after her exploits in 2016, before leaving the country due to oppressive conditions.

Now, she can still inspire women in Iran, along with people in her adopted country, as she becomes Bulgaria’s first taekwondo Olympic athlete.

Kayhan Life’s Nazenin Ansari Speaks to the BBC about Olympic Medalist Kimia Alizadeh and her Decision to Defect

(Production Branko Filipovic, Stoyan Nenov, Hedy Beloucif)

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