Iran’s first female triathlete endures a nervous wait for her WTS Grand Final paperwork

For the second year running, top age-grouper Shirin Gerami sees it go right to the wire despite earning her spot on the starting line in Edmonton – can she get there in time?

Shirin Gerami, Iranian triathlete

As I wait for the final paperwork to come through before I’m able to race at the ITU World Champs in Edmonton, I keep reliving those emotionally intense weeks leading up to ITU World Champs London 2013, where I raced as Iran’s first female triathlete representative.


This time last year, with only three days left before my race, I was still running around Iran’s ministries, triathlon federation and other governing bodies trying to get permission to race. I was still struggling to design clothes that would win approval from the authorities, granting me permission to represent. Everyone I knew told me it’s going to be impossible. The ministry told me there’s not enough time for the political paperwork to come through – there’s no way that they can allow me to race in London.

Every exhausted cell in my body, every shred of logic within me was begging me to see reason and give up… but I was now battling with my values and beliefs. I remembered the first time I started triathlons, when I thought I was far too feeble to even attempt it. It taught me that hard work leads me to my dreams. It made me realise that it’s possible to make positive change, even when it feels impossible. It immersed me into a community of incredible people showing me that regardless of different cultures, beliefs and languages we understand and connect with each other. I hoped that by representing Iran, I’d be able to open a door through which I could share with others what triathlon has taught me.

At around 10pm before race day, I was sitting by the Serpentine with members of the ITU not knowing what to do. Had it all been false hope? Was I clinging on to utopia? Did I have to open my eyes and realise that there is a limit, that there is a line. And at that very moment, the president of Iran’s triathlon federation called. He said the issues have been resolved, they have just emailed the paperwork to the ITU and I will be able to race in the morning. My feeling at that moment is indescribable. As I walked away from the meeting, engulfed by the darkness of the night, I couldn’t help but break down weeping with joy. It was such a sense of relief to know that the beautiful world that I wanted to believe in really does exist.

After the enthusiasm that last year’s participation sparked in so many corners of the world, I decided to continue trying to share the sport that has touched my life so positively. I have spent the past year seeking further permissions from the authorities to be able to continue racing. I started focusing on and bettering my training as best as I could to show that with time, patience and experience, it is possible to improve and ultimately reach ones goals. I started working on sportswear that would enable me to race to the level I wanted whilst respecting the rules and conditions of Iran.

With only four days left until my race in Edmonton, I find myself in a similar situation to last year. With my Canadian visa not yet issued, I am still not allowed to travel to Edmonton for the World Champs. The people at the Canadian Embassy tell me they can’t guarantee that the paperwork will come through in time. This reignites in me the same feeling as when the sports ministry told me there’s not enough time for my political paperwork to come through for the World Champs in London.

Four more days and I’m still in conversation with the ministry about aspects of my race clothes that need to be changed. I am reliving the same feelings as last year when I was still running around clothing workshops trying to find solutions for my race kit.

Today, I find myself questioning my values and beliefs again. Is there a limit to daring to hope and daring to believe?  How powerful is the power of prayer? Is there such a thing as impossible? What if I continued to hope, pray, and stay positive?


After all, I still have four more days.