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Revolutionary Guard Wins Iran's First Olympic Gold

July 24, 2021
Payam Younesipour
3 min read
Revolutionary Guard Wins Iran's First Olympic Gold

Iranian 42-year-old marksman Javad Foroughi surpassed all expectations at the Tokyo Olympics and won Iran’s first gold medal.

Today, Foroughi not only set a new Olympic record and won the gold in the men's 10m air pistol final, but he also became the oldest Iranian to win an Olympic medal.

It breaks the record held by the weightlifter Mahmoud Namjoo, who, at 38, previously won a bronze medal at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

Javad Foroughi, a nurse and the father of two, was the only athlete to represent Iran in the men's 10-meter air pistol at the Tokyo Olympics.

He's also a member of Iran's Revolutionary Guards

Fars News Agency, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, referred to Javad Foroughi as “the Guards’ nurse” after he won the medal. The agency reported that Foroughi is a member of the Revolutionary Guards and fought in Syria as part of the expeditionary Quds Force to defend the regime of Bashar al-Assad. In recent years, the Revolutionary Guards Corps has been trying to recruit athletes from various sports who are sympathetic to its worldview, just one of many campaigns to boost its reputation to the Iranian public and to promote its own goals.

Fars also reported that before the Games got under way, Mohsen Nasr Esfahani, the head coach of Iran’s National Shooting Team, believed Iran had no chance of winning a medal in the sport in 2021. 

In a video clip from an old interview posted by Fars, the sharpshooter said that besides fighting in Syria, he had served as a nurse tending to the injured on both sides of the line.

“Whenever we were treating Islamic State’s wounded," he said, "I told my colleagues to be very kind to them — because religion tells us to be kind to prisoners of war.”

This does not necessarily mean Foroughi treated members of ISIS on the battlefield. In recent years, the Islamic Republic has used the term “Islamic State” to refer indiscriminately to anybody who opposes Bashar al-Assad.

Before the Olympics, Foroughi was best known for his appearance on popular Iranian competition TV program Asr-e Jadid (“New Age”) to evaluate the performance of a young participant. “If you want to learn shooting in a systematic way, come to me,” he told a teenager. At that time, though, stil nobody expected Foroughi to go on to win the first gold medal in shooting in Iran’s sporting history.

In the preliminary round of the Olympic contest, Foroughi came fifth with 580.23 points and got to the final as one of the top eight. In the final, he competed with athletes from India, China, Germany, Ukraine, South Korea and Serbia and won the gold, breaking an Olympic record. Serbia's Damir Mikec finished second on 237.9 points and China's Pang Wei won the bronze with 217.6 points.

As the Iranian flag was raised during the medals ceremony, he stood to attention, military-style, in front of the camera. Fars attributed Foroughi's military posture to his time in the Guards, writing that his gold was "a big reward for an athlete who, besides practicing hard, put his trust in God.”

Related coverage:

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Women Athletes Excluded from Running to Carry the Olympic Flag

Iranian Refugee and National Athlete to Face Off in Tokyo Olympics

"A Message of Hope": Five Iranians on the Olympic Refugee Team



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