Canadian karate athlete Derafshipour named to Tokyo Games refugee team

Canadian karate athlete Derafshipour named to Tokyo Games refugee team

Hamoon Derafshipour’s Olympic dreams began in Iran and then blossomed in Canada.

Now the karate star will compete as a member of the Refugee Olympic team at the Tokyo Games.

And if he steps onto the medal podium, Derafshipour says it will be bittersweet to see the Olympic flag go up for him.

“Of course I’m so sad about it,” Derafshipour said of not competing for Iran. “But I have a goal, and right now Canada is my country.”

WATCH | Derafshipour is getting ready for the Tokyo Games with his wife, coach Samira Malekipour:

Hamoon Derafshipour will compete with his life partner and trainer Samira Malekipour by his side, a dream they have been waiting for a long time. 1:09

The 28-year-old and his wife Samira Malekipour, who is also his coach, left Iran in 2019 for Kitchener, Ont., As he has cousins ​​in nearby Waterloo. In an interview, Derafshipour declined to speak about his reasons for leaving Iran out of concern for his family members who still live in the country.

Derafshipour was born in Kermanshah, near the Iran / Iraq border. Malekipour, a 2010 Asian Games bronze medalist, was coaching Iran’s women’s team when the two met. They got married and opened a karate academy in Iran in 2017.

The two arrived in Canada just before the COVID-19 hit, making Kitchener 15 difficult months. While Derafshipour worked at Driftwood Martial Arts in Kitchener, pandemic protocols meant the gymnasium was closed during Ontario closings. He has since worked for an auto company and then raised funds through a GoFundMe page for a six-week training camp in Istanbul, his current base.

“Canada is for newcomers, but we started life a little differently… it was a tough, tough situation because of COVID,” he said. “But right now we’re going to the Olympics, and we’re happy, we’re always like, ‘We’re going to Tokyo to take my medal home to Canada. We will watch the Olympics like this. “

Tokyo Games Refugee Team

If COVID-19 regulations allow athletes to parade during the opening ceremonies on July 23, the refugee team will march behind the Olympic flag. The team includes athletes in 12 sports, from 13 host National Olympic Committees.

The 29 athletes were selected from a pool of 55 potential athletes from 13 countries. Six team members also competed in the first Olympic refugee team at the Rio 2016 Games.

The Canadian Olympic Committee is considered the host NOC of Derafshipour, and put him in contact with Karate Canada for training and support purposes, and helped guide him through his visa application process. .

To be selected in the refugee team, athletes must be recognized refugees or beneficiaries of international protection according to the agency of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and have proven themselves in competition. high level in their sport.

Targets set for Tokyo

Derafshipour, who won bronze at the 2018 world championships, said Malekipour is the key to his success. They have ambitious goals for Tokyo.

“All the time at home we talk about sports, karate, the Olympics, because I believe I was born to go to the Olympics and [get] results, “Derafshipour said.” I think, Samira knows, I’m not excited to go just so we can say ‘Oh, here’s the Olympics.’

“We want to go to the Olympics for results, for a medal.”

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