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Kimia Alizadeh: Iranian defector from Olympic Refugee Team stuns two-time Olympic taekwondo champion

By Jacob Lev, CNN

An Iranian taekwondo athlete competing for the Refugee Olympic Team made her mark at Tokyo 2020 after she defeated two-time Olympic gold medalist Jade Jones.

Kimia Alizadeh beat Team Great Britain’s Jones 16-12 on Sunday in the women’s -57kg taekwondo round of 16.

She then overcame China’s Lijun Zhou in the quarterfinals before losing to Turkey’s Hatice Kubra Ilgun in the bronze medal match.

Had Alizadeh won that match she’d have secured the Refugee Olympic Team’s first ever medal since its creation in 2016.

Earlier on Sunday, Alizadeh beat an athlete representing Iran — Nahid Kiyani Chandeh — in a qualifying round.

Five years ago Alizadeh became the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal competing for Iran after claiming bronze in taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Affectionately known in Iran as “The Tsunami,” Alizadeh announced in 2020 she’d permanently left her birth country for Europe amid searing criticism of the Iranian regime.

“I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran who they have been playing with for years,” the athlete wrote in an Instagram post in 2020 explaining why she was defecting

The 23-year-old was granted refugee status in Germany and now lives in the Bavarian town of Aschaffenburg.

Alizadeh is Germany’s third refugee athlete, according to Germany’s Taekwondo Union.

There are 29 athletes competing for the IOC Refugee Olympic Team in this year’s Games, according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

IOC President Thomas Bach announced the creation of the Refugee Olympic Team — the first of its kind — back in 2015, as part of the committee’s pledge to “aid potential elite athletes affected by the worldwide refugee crisis.”

American Anastasija Zolotic won the women’s -57kg taekwondo gold after beating Russian Olympic Committee’s Tatiana Minina, who claimed silver.

Zolotic is the first US woman to win Olympic gold in taekwondo.

Bronze went to Ilgun and Chinese Taipei’s Lo Chia-Ling.

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