Refugee defector from Iran to face Iranian at Tokyo Olympics


TOKYO — A defector from Iran who competes in taekwondo for the refugee team at the Tokyo Olympics was drawn on Thursday to face an Iranian opponent in the qualifying round.

Kimia Alizadeh, who left Iran citing institutional sexism, will face Nahid Kiyani Chandeh in the 57-kilogram class on Sunday.

Alizadeh was the first Iranian women to win an Olympic medal when she took bronze at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games when she was 18. She later criticized wearing the mandatory hijab headscarf, which she had to wear in Rio, and left Iran to live in Germany.

“I have a great feeling to have made a decision for my life that would definitely change my future,” she said last year in Germany.

Alizadeh was selected for the 29-athlete Refugee Olympic Team last month.

The two-time world championship medalist and 2014 Youth Olympics champion needed an invitation to join the 16 athletes who qualified for the 57kg featherweight category at the Tokyo Games.

The extra entry made an odd-numbered lineup, requiring a qualifying round to advance to the main bracket. The draw landed Alizadeh against an opponent from her former country.

The winner at the Makuhari Messe near Tokyo will advance to the round of 16 and face defending champion Jade Jones of Britain less than two hours later.

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