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Siamand Rahman, world’s strongest Paralympian, lost among Laureus celebrities

Siamand Rahman is a two-time Paralympic powerlifting champion from Iran. He was nominated for the Sportsperson of the Year with a disability in the Laureus world sports awards in Monaco

other sports Updated: Feb 17, 2017 13:24 IST
Soumitra Bose
Soumitra Bose
Hindustan Times, Monaco
Siamand Rahman,Rio Paralympics,Laureus world sports awards
Siamand Rahman, two-time Paralympic powerlifting champion, at the Laureus World Sports Awards.(HT Photo)

No matter how much we talk about “sport for good” and the likes, treatment meted out to sportspersons with a disability, continue to be discriminatory. Like the way Iranian powerlifter and two-time Paralympic gold medallist Siamand Rahman was handled at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Monte Carlo on Tuesday night.

The 170-kilo genial giant, born with a congenital abnormality that affected his legs, was tucked away in a far-out corner of a large hall at the Salle des Etoiles, Sporting Monte Carlo, the venue of Laureus World Sports Awards on a starlit Tuesday night.

While almost all world superstar nominees and celebrities like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Nico Rosberg, Michael Johnson, Ruud Gullit, Sergei Bubka, Simone Biles, Nadia Comaneci et al, occupied a large area in front of the main dais, Siamand Rahman quietly wheel-chaired in with an assistant to seat himself in one of the cramped tables far from the spotlight.

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This correspondent and veteran scribe, Ayaz Memon, were the only two journalists inside the hall as media guests from India. Rahman, dressed in a beige-coloured shirt and a matching blazer with his country’s name embroidered, sat exactly opposite to us, less than a metre away. Initially, we didn’t know who he was.

By the sheer volume of his size, the 28-year-old Iranian, who produced the best weightlifting performance in Rio 2016 when he lifted a world record 310 kg to take gold in the men’s over 100 kg event, was difficult to miss, but who cared when all the attention was on the Bolts, Phelps, Rosbergs and the Biles.

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Even the host of the show, British actor Hugh Grant, had no clue that there was an exceptional world record holder present in one obscure corner of a star-studded hall. Grant’s briefing by the show organisers surely did not mention the Iranian champion.

Siamand Rahman, who made global headlines after becoming the first Paralympian to lift over 300 kg, was not even properly attended to. No champagne or not even a glass of water was offered to him. It was when the nominees for the Sportspersons of the Year with a disability came up, did Rahman’s achievement briefly flashed on the big screens across the hall.

A quick eye contact between this correspondent and Memon followed. “Oh my God, we are sitting handshaking distance away from a double Olympic champion,” we murmured, quickly glancing through a programme brochure to make a note of the Iranian’s slew of amazing records.

Soon, the attention turned to Beatrice Vio. The Italian fencer, dressed in vermilion red, too has an incredible life story. The only quadruple amputee in international wheelchair fencing, Beatrice struck (foil) gold in Rio 2016 by beating China’s Jingjing Zhao.

Laureus Academy member Alessandro Del Piero hands the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award to fencer Beatrice Vio of Italy during the 2017 Laureus World Sports Awards at the Salle des Etoiles,Sporting Monte Carlo on Tuesday. (Getty Images for Laureus)

In late 2008, “Bebe”, as she is fondly called, lost both her hands and legs due to a terrible cell or tissue disorder, medically termed as Necrosis. After a video revealed Beatrice’s life journey as a sportsperson, she won the biggest applause of the night and a standing ovation that the 19-year-old richly deserved.

No grudges, no moist eyes, the genial giant was happy clicking his own selfie. Soon after the show moved to the next award, Siamand Rahman and his assistant rolled away quietly, far from the red carpet that hogged all the attention. But not before the champion happily shook hands and signed an autograph for this correspondent, perhaps the only token of appreciation that lit up the face of a superstar.

First Published: Feb 16, 2017 18:05 IST