Behind the veil of Iran’s shooter is a frustrated gymnast
TEHRAN: The only woman athlete Iran is sending to the Athens Olympics is under no illusions of winning a medal in her sport of shooting. In fact, she admits the sport is not her real passion.
“If the dress code was not an issue, I would have preferred to stick with gymnastics. I've been doing that since the age of three,” Nassim Hassanpour, a petite 19-year-old told AFP.
With the Islamic republic viewing tight-fitting leotards as unsuitable public attire for women, Hassanpour is instead restricted to any sport that can be played wearing the obligatory headscarf and long coat. This rules out sports such as gymnastics, swimming, track and field athletics or beach volleyball.
Instead she chose shooting – the air pistol on a 10 metre range. And in a gesture of slight rebellion, Hassanpour may be covering up her frame in beige, rather than the ubiquitous black.
“I am crazy about animals – I have two pet dogs – and I always associated shooting with hunting,” she said while training in her run-down Tehran basement shooting range.
Eventually her talent was spotted three years ago, and her career launched.
Hassanpour was eager to exploit the opportunity to travel abroad, something that many of her compatriots are unable to do due to financial and visa restrictions.
Rather than having a passion, Hassanpour says simply she has acquired a taste for the sport.
Still, facilities for women athletes are sorely lacking in Iran, she complains. And even when they do compete, competitions are held behind closed doors and away from the prying eyes of the media meaning sponsorship deals are impossible to come by.
“I’ve spent all my savings and borrowed from my mother to get by. My monthly allowance of 1,350,000 rials (US$150) is four months overdue,” she explained, adding that working as a private rollerblading coach has also helped top up her income. – AFP