July 25, 2021

By Chang-Ran Kim

CHIBA, Japan (Reuters) -Iranian Kimia Alizadeh could make Olympic history for the second time on Sunday after winning her first three matches in the women’s taekwondo -57kg category and a chance at the bronze in what would be the first-ever medal for the Refugee Olympic Team.

Five years ago in Rio, Alizadeh became the only Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal when she took bronze. She fled to Germany last year, and is one of three taekwondo athletes competing for the refugee team at the Tokyo Games.

The Refugee Olympic Team had 10 competitors in three sports on their first Games appearance in Rio. It has 29 athletes in 12 sports in Tokyo 2020.

Alizadeh’s first three matches were all notable: the first, against erstwhile compatriot Nahid Kiyani Chandeh – coached by her previous instructor – and the second against double Olympic champion Jade Jones of Britain in the round of 16.

In the third, the 23-year-old defied the odds by beating Chinese gold medal favourite Zhou Lijun, who paced around the octagonal mat in disbelief as she conceded the match.

Competing under the white flag, Alizadeh was a clear favourite in the Makuhari Messe arena, entering to applause and cheers from members of the media and others in the venue at which no general public spectators were allowed.

Alizadeh, who said she left her homeland because she was fed up with being used as a propaganda tool, lost to Russian Tatiana Minina in the semi-final round. She will have a chance at one of the two bronze medals.7

Alizadeh’s defeat of Jones and her subsequent victory over Zhou were among many upsets on day two of the four-day taekwondo competition. Gold medal contenders in the men’s -58kg category, South Korea’s Lee Dae-hoon and China’s Zhao Shuai both lost a chance for the crown. https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/taekwondo-heartache-skorea-olympics-jinx-follows-lee-2021-07-25

The gold medal contests for the featherweight category will be between Russia’s Minina and the United States’ Anastasija Zolotic for women and Uzbek Ulugbek Rashitov and Briton Bradly Sinden for men.

(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell, Karishma Singh and Pritha Sarkar)