Ahead of International Women’s Day, Nemati urges women to never forget their dreams

Ahead of International Women’s Day, Nemati urges women to never forget their dreams

7 March 2021

Iran’s top Para archer Zahra Nemati embraces the mindset of Never Giving Up. She believes in her dreams and urges women in Iran and globally to never forget their dreams and to have a hope for future.

“The most important thing is you need to have a goal and you should dream to achieve it. This is the goal that will give you happiness in your life,” said Nemati as she sends her best wishes on International Women’s Day to every woman.

A trailblazer, a role model and a back-to-back Paralympic gold medallist, Nemati has never looked back ever since she stepped into a new life following a car accident way back in 2004 that left her with a spinal-cord injury.

Her unwavering determination led her to become a role model for many aspiring female para-athletes. Prior to her injuries she was a black belt in taekwondo, but Nemati is now one of the most popular and sought-after Para archers in the world. She is also the first United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Ambassador of Global Understanding. Her numerous achievements on and off the archery field have led to her being shortlisted for the International Paralympic Committee’s 2021 International Women’s Day Recognition Awards.

She made it into the history books by competing at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio 2016, becoming the first Iranian athlete, the first Asian woman and only the 13th athlete in the history of sport to do so. Now Nemati is on a mission to motivate women with a disability globally.

Asked if that brings her extra responsibility, the 35-year-old from Kerman said: “It’s not a responsibility. I am thinking that there is a goal and I want to achieve it to inspire and motivate other women with disability; to show them the way.

“I want to guide them; be a light for them. I want to set examples for others; for the women in Iran and globally,” said the reigning Paralympic Champion, who was speaking to the Asian Paralympic Committee at the recent Fazza Para Archery World Ranking Tournament in Dubai.

 ‘Para Archery gave me a new life’

Two years after the accident, Nemati, a university student then, took up archery and needed just six months to compete in her first National Championships. Competing alongside able-bodied archers she finished in third place in that Championships.

A call to be part of the National Archery team wasn’t far away. She went on to win an individual bronze and, team silver and bronze medals in Asian competitions during her two-year period competing with able-bodied archers.

And in her very first appearance in Para archery at the 2010 Czech Republic Championships, she broke the world record while winning a number of medals in individual and team events.

“I found Para Archery very interesting and attractive at the first instance. I like the challenges the sport unfolds; the challenges by the sport itself and by my opponents. Besides, it has brought to me a lot of honour and achievements in my life. So, Para Archery is special to me,” said Nemati who set a Paralympic record on her way to win the women's individual recurve W1/W2 Gold medal at London 2012 Games.

“In fact, after the accident, my life changed completely – from one life to a very new one. And now I have a new characteristic, new personality. I can’t say there are no problems, but with adaptations. I am living with it.

“And Para Archery gave a new meaning to my life. I was able to compete with abled body athletes, compete at the Olympics.”

“Thus, I would like to once again state that sport is one of the strongest tools to overcome disability.”

’Want to break record at Tokyo 2020’

Nemati repeated the feat in Rio 2016 and defended her gold medal and now wants to continue the momentum and repeat the performance yet again, at Tokyo 2020.

“After the London 2012 gold, it was very difficult to win again. Repeating the achievement was very difficult and I worked very hard for this. It was a very interesting challenge. And I want to continue repeating my achievements in Tokyo 2020 and further.”

The work is already ongoing as she strives to win her third Paralympic Gold medal and also make the qualifying mark for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. In fact, it has been nine months since Nemati has seen her family in Kemran owing to her training camp in Tehran and the Pandemic.

“I am undergoing different types of training - technical and physical fitness training every day. Even this competition (Fazza Championships) was part of our training as due to this Pandemic, there was no competition. It was great to be in the field to find my strength and weakness. When I am back in Iran, I will work to enhance my strength and rectify my mistakes.

“In Dubai, I was satisfied with my game as I was able to control it,” said Nemati, who took the silver medal in the Recurve Women Open event after going down to Turkey’s Yagmur Sengul 6-2 in Dubai.

“I want to break the record, break the history at Tokyo 2020.”


A strong mind

The Iranian Para archer also singled out her “strong championship mindset” as her strength. “To have the champion thought and champion personality is what I always strive for.

“And I think my strength is my strong mind.”

Nemati also embraces activism and feels happy when she extends her help to someone in need. “It gives me immense happiness.”

“In future, I want to build an Academy in Iran focus on educating and giving opportunity to girls and children and train them Archery.”

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