Valizadeh, Mahdavi named in IOC Refugee Team for 2024 Paris Olympics

By United World Wrestling Press

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (May 2) -- Wrestlers Iman MAHDAVI and Jamal VALIZADEH were among the 36 athletes from 11 different countries across 12 sports were named by International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach to the IOC Refugee Olympic Team for Paris 2024.

Mahdavi and Valizadeh were selected to the IOC Refugee Olympic Team through the support of the Refugee Athletes Scholarship Programme, funded by the IOC's Olympic Solidarity program. The two wrestlers are supported by the hosting national federations of Italy and France and the United World Wrestling Development Department for Technical Assistance and participation in UWW events.

At the 2024 Paris Games in August, the two will be representing different styles with Valizadeh gearing up for Greco-Roman 60kg and Mahdavi set to compete in Freestyle 74kg.

Mahdavi was born to be a wrestler, following in his father's footsteps. Through his unwavering love for the sport and fierce determination, it was no surprise that success followed the now-29-year-old. He won seven junior national titles and quickly climbed the ranks in his nation.

But in 2020, that was all derailed as Mahdavi fled his country and became a refugee. He moved to Milan, Italy, and applied for asylum. He found a full-time job in Milan and friends that soon became family. Through all the uncertainties, one thing remained – his love for wrestling.

Mahdavi found a practice facility in Milan, one with high-level training partners that helped rekindle his Olympic hopes. He worked out five days a week, and after three years of struggle, Mahdavi returned to the mat under the UWW Refugee team.

Mahdavi's UWW Refugee team debut came at the 2023 European Championships, where he registered a 12th-place finish at 74kg, one of the most competitive brackets of the tournament. After two months of tweaks and improvements, Mahdavi achieved a career-best result – a bronze medal at the City of Sassari Tournament. He continued taking the mat every chance he had, wrestling in the Poland Open and World Championships, where he finished in fifth and 18th, respectively.

This year, Mahdavi's competition calendar will feature three events – two of which will be tune-up competitions. He already participated in the European Championships and will use the World OG Qualifier (May 11-12) as a warm up competition for the Paris Games, where he will compete August 9-10.

It is to be noted that Mahdavi will be in Istanbul on a participating basis and not for qualification. The same is true for Valizadeh who will compete in Istanbul but not to qualify.

Like Mahdavi, Valizadeh shared a similar love for wrestling from a young age. He became one of Iran's brightest talents through his hard work and commitment to wrestling.

Despite having a bright future in the sport, Valizadeh was forced to put wrestling in the rearview and leave Iran in 2014 for a better life. He ended up in Turkiye, where he worked nearly 16 hours a day to make ends meet.

But still, Valizadeh knew there was no way he could reach his ultimate goal – the Olympic Games – living in Turkiye.

After two years, Valizadeh departed Turkiye by boat and arrived in France where he trains with the French Greco-Roman National Team and lives in Metz.

Although he had been away from the sport for many years, Valizadeh regained his passion for wrestling and returned to the mat in 2023 as a UWW Refugee team member. He competed six times last year, including the European and World Championships.

This season, in addition to his appearances at the Henri Deglane and European Championships in GR 60kg, Valizadeh will participate, for experience, in the World OG Qualifier (May 9-10) before wrestling on home soil at the Paris Olympic Games, August 5-6.

For more on the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, visit olympics.com.


Which nations have qualified in women's wrestling for Paris Olympics

By Eric Olanowski

PARIS, France (May 9) -- The ultra-competitive and uber-emotional final stage of the Paris Olympic Qualifiers is set to take place in Istanbul, Turkiye, May 9-12.

After next week’s Battle on the Bosporus -- which is the sixth and final event on the Olympic qualification calendar -- all 288 tickets to Paris 2024 will be booked and the nations wrestling in Paris will be set.

Breakdown of quotas allocations for Paris 2024:
- World Championships = 30 freestyle, 30 women’s wrestling and 30 Greco-Roman = 90 quotas
- Continental Olympic Qualifiers (x4 continents) = 12 freestyle, 12 women’s wrestling and 12 Greco-Roman = 36
- World Olympic Qualifier = 18 freestyle, 18 women’s wrestling and 18 Greco-Roman = 54
- Total = 96 freestyle, 96 women’s wrestling and 96 Greco-Roman = 288 wrestlers in Paris

It’s worth noting, and as you’ll see below, the induvial wrestler who earns the ticket to the Olympic Games does not own the right to compete in Pairs. Ultimately, it’s the National Olympic Committee / country who selects their entry for the Games.

For example: David TAYLOR (USA), through his world-title winning performance in Belgrade, punched the United States’ ticket at 86kg. But after going through their Olympic Trails, and with Taylor falling in the finals, the Stars and Stripes will send Aaron BROOKS (USA) to Paris at 86kg.

Over the last 288 days, wrestles have gone through two of three stages vying for their opportunity to earn their nation’s berth to Pairs.

The beginning stages of the qualification process took place last September at the 2023 World Championships, in Belgrade, Serbia, where there was a total of 90 quotas up for the taking. Wrestlers who won a medal--gold, silver or bronze (x2)-- earned a ticket for their country.

Additionally, the two losers of the bronze-medal matches faced off in an Olympic playoff match, determining the fifth allocation in Belgrade.

Then came the Continental Olympic Qualifiers, where 36 quotas per continent were handed out.

Those athletes who reached the finals of their respective weight classes at the Pan-American, African & Oceania, European and Asian Olympic Qualifiers booked their nation’s ticket to Paris.

Now, after traveling through Belgrade, Acapulco, Alexandria, Baku and Bishkek, we’ve reached Istanbul for the “Last Chance Qualifier.”

There will be a slight adjustment to the number of allocations given in Istanbul, where in addition to the finalists earning berths to Paris, there will be an Olympic playoff between the winners of the bronze-medal matches to determine the final entries for the Olympic Games.

The draws for the World Olympic Qualifier will take place on May 8, with wrestling beginning the following day. Greco-Roman will compete live on UWW+ on May 9-10, women’s wrestling on May 10-11 and freestyle on May 11-12.


Here are the women’s wrestling nations that have qualified for the Paris Olympics before the start of the World Olympic Qualifier (May 9-12).

From World Championships
Japan (Yui SUSAKI)
Mongolia (Otgonjargal DOLGORJAV)
China (Ziqi FENG)
United States (Sarah HILDEBRANDT)
Turkiye (Evin DEMIRHAN)

From Pan-Am OG Qualifier
Colombia (Alisson CARDOZO REY)
Cuba (Yusneylis GUZMAN LOPEZ)

From African & Oceania OG Qualifier
Egypt (Nada MOHAMED)
Algeria (Ibtissem DOUDOU)

From European OG Qualifier
Ukraine (Oksana LIVACH)
Nadezhda SOKOLOVA as Individual Neutral Athlete

From Asian OG Qualifier
Uzbekistan (Aktenge KEUNIMJAEVA)
India (Vinesh VINESH)

From World Olympic Qualifier
Germany (Anastasia BLAYVAS)
DPR Korea (Son hyang KIM)
Azerbaijan (Mariya STADNIK) 

From World Championships
Japan (Akari FUJINAMI)
Vanesa KALADZINSKAYA as Individual Neutral Athlete
ANTIM for Indian Olympic Association
Ecuador (Lucia YEPEZ)
Sweden (Jonna MALMGREN)

From Pan-Am OG Qualifier
United States (Dominique PARRISH)
Venezuela (Betzabeth AGUELLO)

From African & Oceania OG Qualifier
Nigeria (Christianah OGUNSANYA)
Guam (Mia AQUINO)

From European OG Qualifier
Romania (Andreea ANA)
Natalia MALYSHEVA as Individual Neutral Athlete

From Asian OG Qualifier
China (PANG Qianyu)
DPR Korea (Hyogyong CHOE)

From World Olympic Qualifier
Mongolia (Khulan BATKHUYAG)
Moldova (Mariana DRAGUTAN)
Turkiye (Zeynep YETGIL)

From World Championships
Japan (Tsugumi SAKURAI)
Moldova (Anastasia NICHITA)
United States (Helen MAROULIS)
Nigeria (Odunayo ADEKUOROYE)
Poland (Anhelina LYSAK)

From Pan-Am OG Qualifier
Canada (Hannah TAYLOR)
Ecuador (Luisa VALVERDE)

From African & Oceania OG Qualifier
Algeria (Chaimaa AOUISSI)
Guam (Rckaela AQUINO)

From European OG Qualifier
Germany (Sandra PARUSZEWSKI)
Iryna KURACHKINA as Individual Neutral Athlete

From Asian OG Qualifier
China (Kexin HONG)
India (Anshu ANSHU)

From World Olympic Qualifier
Olga KHOROSHAVTSEVA as Individual Neutral Athlete
Brazil (Giullia OLIVEIRA)
Italy (Aurora RUSSO)

From World Championships
Kyrgyzstan (Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA)
Japan (Sakura MOTOKI)
Norway (Grace BULLEN)
Ukraine (Iryna KOLIADENKO)
Germany (Luisa NIEMESCH)

From Pan-Am OG Qualifier
United States (Kayla MIRACLE)
Canada (Ana GODINEZ)

From African & Oceania OG Qualifier
Nigeria (Esther KOLAWOLE)
Tunisia (Siwar BOUSETA)

From European OG Qualifier
Bulgaria (Bilyana DUDOVA)
Alina KASABIEVA as Individual Neutral Athlete

From Asian OG Qualifier
DPR Korea (Hyon Gyong MUN)
Mongolia (Orkhon PUREVDORJ)

From World Olympic Qualifier
Turkiye (Nesrin BAS)
Romania (Kriszta INCZE) 
Veranika IVANOVA as Individual Neutral Athlete

From World Championships
Turkiye (Buse TOSUN)
Mongolia (Delgermaa ENKHSAIKHAN)
Moldova (Irina RINGACI)
France (Koumba LARROQUE)
Japan (Ami ISHII)

From Pan-Am OG Qualifier
Venezuela (Soleymi CARABALLO)
United States (Amit ELOR)

From African & Oceania OG Qualifier
Nigeria (Blessing OBORUDUDU)
New Zealand (Tayla FORD)

From European OG Qualifier
Poland (Wiktoria CHOLUJ)
Khanum VELIEVA as Individual Neutral Athlete

From Asian OG Qualifier
DPR Korea (Sol Gum PAK)
Kyrgyzstan (Meerim ZHUMANAZAROVA)

From World Olympic Qualifier
China (Feng ZHOU)
India (Nisha NISHA) 
Canada (Linda MORAIS)

From World Championships
Japan (Yuka KAGAMI)
Kyrgyzstan (Aiperi MEDEY KYZY)
United States (Adeline GRAY)
Colombia (Tatiana RENTERIA)
Cuba (Milaimys MARIN)

From Pan-Am OG Qualifier
Canada (Justina DI STASIO)
Ecuador (Genesis REASCO)

From African & Oceania OG Qualifier
Nigeria (Hannah RUEBEN)
Tunisia (Zaineb SGHAIER)

From European OG Qualifier
Hungary (Bernadett NAGY)
Turkiye (Yasemin ADAR)

From Asian OG Qualifier
India (Reetika REETIK)
China (Juan WANG)

From World Olympic Qualifier
Romania (Catalina AXENTE)
Bulgaria (Yuliana YANEVA)
Mongolia (Davaanasan ENKH AMAR)