24-year-old makes history in London by becoming first Iranian female to compete in sport’s world championship.
At 7.15am on Sunday morning, Shirin Gerami stepped into the chilly waters of the Hyde Park’s Serpentine in full Islamic dress and made history.
Gerami, 24, paved the way for thousands of sportswomen by becoming the first Iranian female triathlete to take part in the sport’s world championship. Female swimmers and triathletes from Iran have previously been denied permission to race in international events where men can spectate.
“I feel very proud and I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to race,” she told the Guardian after completing a 1,500m swim, 40km cycle and 10km run in the PruHealth world triathlon grand final.
Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, who promised to advance equality for women upon assuming office last month, greeted her in a tweet: “Shirin Gerami, 1st female triathlete to have participated in world championship wearing Iran’s colours #GenderEquality.” In a follow-up tweet he wrote: “#forward #hope #equality #progress #pride”.
Gerami said she was “humbled” by Rouhani’s reaction: “I very much hope it will inspire other women to participate in triathlon.” Sunday’s race took her two hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds and she finished 76th out of 87 athletes in her age group.
Gerami received the historic go-ahead after spending four months trying to persuade Iran’s sports ministry that she wanted to respect their Islamic requirements. She competed in a dress that covered her body from head to toe and the International Triathlon Union aided her by providing a tent where she could change clothes in between legs.
The most empowering and uplifting moments, Gerami said, came when other athletes patted her on the back as she ran and the crowd cheered as she passed, shouting, “Well done, Iran!”
“Athletes from different corners of the world were there and it’s very uplifting to see that everyone respected Iran and everyone respected that we were participating.”
The authorities in Iran appeared initially reluctant to officially nominate Gerami given that the UK government had turned down visa applications for two officials from Iran’s national triathlon federation who wanted to accompany Gerami during the competition. In the light of international expectations, Iran’s sports ministry, however, issued the required paperwork in the last hours before the final began.
“The biggest, biggest lesson I learnt is to always think positive,” Gerami said. “At one stage, Iranian media were thinking this wasn’t going to happen … but then I received a phone call and they said I was nominated.”
by The Guardian
The Iran Project is not responsible for the content of quoted articles.