Iranian skier Forough Abbasi was in PyeongChang to compete in the women’s slalom. Winning a gold medal, though, wasn’t her goal. Realistically, Abbasi knew she had no chance to win the event, but by just being in PyeongChang and competing, she was winning.
Abbasi came to the Games determined to help counter the stereotype of women in Iran.
“Everyone in all the world is thinking that Iranian ladies can’t be anywhere and can’t do anything, such as sports,” said Abbasi after her first run in the ladies slalom at the Yongpyong Alpine Centre.
She countered, “But really, we are free in our country, and we can do everything. So I am happy that I am an Iranian lady, I’m Muslim, and I can be in all of the races. Everything is so fun for me.”
In 2014, she competed in her first Winter Games in Sochi. She became just the second female athlete to represent the Islamic Republic of Iran in Apline skiing at the Winter Games. She finished 48th in slalom, but it was the best result for a female Iranian in any snow sport.
Fast forward to her second Olympics in PyeongChang, and Abbasi is a lot better equipped to take in the whole experience of the Games, including socializing with other athletes.
Even though Abbasi cannot freely go where she pleases, she is still trying to make lots of friends while in PyeongChang, including American friends.
“We are not free and we cannot go everywhere without the federation, but we are training with the American athletes. I have so many photos with the Americans on my Instagram,” Abbasi exclaimed.
Another stereotype that Abbasi is trying to prove wrong is that Iranians don’t like Americans and vice versa.
She expressed, “I love the American people so much. Really, we Iranians don’t have any problem with the [American] people. Maybe the governments have some problems together, but the people don’t. We love everyone around the world, we want to be friends.”
Even though Abbasi is thriving off the slopes, she struggled in her slalom runs. Just like any athlete, the heaviness of competing and representing your country weighed on Abbasi.
After her race she said, “I’m so tired,” adding, “I was so nervous. I have so much stress. The run was hard, we don’t have any ice in Iran. This is my second time at the Olympic Games and it was easier than the first one but still, I’ve never had training on ice. But I’m happy for myself, to get to the finish line was enough.”
Abbasi ultimately finished 49th in the slalom with a combined time of 2:04.06, 25.43 seconds slower than the winner Frida Hansdotter of Sweden. But by just showing up, Abbasi proved that women everywhere, Iranian or not, can accomplish anything they set their minds to.
In the true spirit of the Games, Abbasi summed up her mission: “We want to show the world peace.”