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Iranian teenager overcomes obstacles to fulfil Olympic dream
5:13pm Friday 10th August 2012 in Olympics News
An Iranian teenager told today how she had to take up kayaking to compete at the Olympics because as a promising swimmer she could not wear only a swimming costume in front of men.
Arezou Hakimimoghaddam trained for six years as a swimmer in women-only pools but under strict Islamic laws in Iran, the 17-year-old was prevented from stripping down to a swimsuit.
This meant she could not compete internationally and so instead decided to take up kayaking to fulfil her ambitions of competing at the Olympics.
Today, the youngest Olympian to compete at Eton Dorney this week donned a hijab and full-body wetsuit as she came seventh in her heat in the women's single kayak 200m race.
Speaking afterwards, she said: "Before I was a swimmer. For six years I was swimming in the Iran team but after swimming I found kayaking.
"In Iran, swimming is only allowed for ladies on their own. If swimming is in front of other ladies, there is not a problem.
"We don't have any representatives internationally in swimming and I wanted to go to another level."
Hakimimoghaddam said the games were proving popular in Iran, where her family and friends were watching on the television.
She added: "I am very happy to be here in London representing Iran. It was a good result for me and also for Iran that we have two people in the kayak and also in the rowing.
"I hope that at the next Olympics in 2016 we have more athletes. It's been a great experience being here and I hope that I will be at the next Olympics I can be champion.
"When I get back, I will be training very hard for the next Olympics and the Asian Games. My family are very happy that I am here, my colleagues and my friends - all of them are happy."
She was unable to make further progress to tomorrow's finals as the racing followed the form book.
In the women's K1, the Hungarian Natasa Douchev-Janics won her semi-final, while the young New Zealander Lisa Carrington, 23, also qualified impressively.
Douchev-Janics, 30, warned her rivals she was aiming for a gold medal to go with the silver she won in the two-man kayak earlier in the week.
She said: "I still have some spare for the final. I wouldn't say that this was not a full race, but now I'll go back to paddle, and practice the few strokes that I have to.
"If I win the race tomorrow, then I'll be satisfied."
Meanwhile, tomorrow's canoe sprint final is likely to be a straight contest between France's Mathieu Goubel and Germany's Sebastian Brendal.
Goubel who missed out in the final of the men's 1000m, said he wanted to "make things right".
He said: "I put all my anger into this race. I was disappointed after not making the final in the 1000 metres."
In the men's 200m two-man kayak, it was the Russians who dominated.
Yury Postrigay and Alexander Dyachenko beat the British pairing of Liam Heath and Jon Schofield, while in the other semi-final Raman Piatrushenka and Vadzim Makhneu qualified in first.
The only upset of the day came in the single kayak over 200m, where Piotr Siemionowski finished sixth and did not qualify for the final.
The 24-year-old was seen as potential rival to Britain's Ed McKeever, who is one of the favourites to claim gold.