[Shirin Gerami of Iran at the finish line for the Standard Distance Age-Group PruHealth ITU World Triathlon Grand Final London at Hyde Park on Sept 15.]
By Elham Asaad Buaras
Shirin Gerami made history on September 15 when she became the first Iranian woman to take part in a triathlon [swimming, cycling, and running in succession] world championship. Female swimmers and triathletes from Iran have previously been barred from racing in international events in the presence of male spectators.
The 24 year-old stepped into the waters of the Hyde Park’s Serpentine in a kit that covered her body from head to toe. The International Triathlon Union aided her by providing a tent where she could change clothes in between legs.
Gerami finished 76th out of 87 with a time of two hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds.
Speaking after completing the 1,500m swim, 40km cycle and 10km run in the PruHealth World triathlon grand final Gerami said; “I feel very proud and I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to race. I very much hope it will inspire other women to participate in triathlon.”
“The biggest, biggest lesson I learnt is to always think positive,” Gerami said. “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.”
Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, tweeted: “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”.
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.
Iran’s sports ministry issued the required paperwork just hours before the finals began.
Despite the media frenzy over Gerami’s participation in the triathlon championship, Iran’s record of female participation in sport is relatively positive for a Gulf country. Eight Iranian women took part in last year’s Olympic games [archery, athletics, canoeing, rowing, shooting, table tennis and taekwondo] and 7 in the Paralympics games. (The Muslim News Issue 280 & 281)
And the country’s female football team were on the brink of qualifying for the Olympic games when they were forced to forfeit a qualifier against Jordan in 2011 over a FIFA rule on dress code that has since been altered. (The Muslim News Issue 272)