Zahra Nemati aiming to write history with third Paralympic gold in Tokyo
In less than two months, the first competition arrows will fly at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Less than one month after that, the Paralympics will take to the same range at Yumenoshima Park Archery Field.
Zahra Nemati hopes to compete in both events.
“Yes, that's my goal. I want to qualify both for the Olympics and the Paralympics,” she said.
The 36-year-old won back-to-back Paralympic titles at London 2012 and Rio 2016. The performances were of historical significance, especially the maiden title, when she became the first woman from Iran to win either an Olympic or Paralympic gold medal.
In Brazil, she also made her Olympic debut, becoming one of the few athletes to have crossed over both events.
“I work hard to achieve my goals,” she said. “I can't predict the future. The only thing I can say is that I will do my best.”
In Lausanne for the second stage of the 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup last month, Nemati has returned to the international circuit after more than two years. The pandemic was difficult for everyone, and Nemati is no different. She has had COVID-19 and recovered – and is positive about her chances.
It’s Games season – and every arrow matters.
Nemati is a lock for the Paralympics but she has yet to secure her quota for the Olympics.
She has one last chance to do so – at the final qualification tournament next month in Paris, alongside every other recurve woman who is ticketless but harbouring the Tokyo dream.
Years ago, Zahra dreamed of becoming an Olympian in taekwondo. She had a car accident that injured her spine and left her in a wheelchair, so she switched focus. The fulfilment of that Olympic dream in 2016, albeit in a different sport, is a testament to Nemati’s incredible character.
“This event was so special for me to prove that in my country they define a special position for women,” she told paralympic.org. “It means that women and girls, in spite of so many challenges and difficulty, can reach their best.”
Zahra carried the Iranian flag at the head of the delegation in the opening ceremony in Rio.
She has her sights on writing yet more history in Tokyo.
No archer has won three consecutive Paralympic titles – and whether she manages to go to both Games once again or not, defending her crown once again would surely put her among the sport’s all-time greats.
“Why not?” she said. “I’m using all of my energy to get the third Paralympic medal. This is my aim.”
Nemati is widely regarded for her activism for people with impairment and for women’s rights in Iran.
She has spoken to the United Nations on both subjects and is an ambassador for global understanding.
The International Paralympic Committee presented her with an award recognising her leadership earlier this year, praising her work in raising awareness of women’s rights, potential and campaigning for change.
“I am very happy as I represent the Iranian women. It’s an honour for me to win the award, but it comes with a huge responsibility,” she said.
Zahra has achieved so much. But she wants more.
Already a trailblazer for impaired sport, for women in Iran and worldwide, she is a humanitarian to her core. From the platform of sporting success, she professes a desire to speak on wider issues of human rights and equality.
Archery is a very personal sport – yet, while pursuing excellence on the range, Nemati continues to put the spotlight on others.
She is, quite simply, an inspiration.