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Kalhor last in Olympics but 1st with global media.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Iran's first female Olympic skier got lots of adoring attention from the world media this past week, but she still finished last in both of her events. Meanwhile, Iran's two male downhill skiers competed for a second time with an Israeli in the race.

Female skier Marjan Kalhor, 21, automatically complies with her country's dress code when she is covered head-to-toe for her downhill runs. But she still wears a headscarf under her helmet, presumably so she can take off her helmet when she isn't on the slope. "I'm very careful about covering my hair," she said in British Columbia, "and I make sure to cover my neck."

But there can be other problems. About two years ago, a cleric was quoted as saying that women should not be allowed to ski because the movement of their knees when going downhill "looked more like dancing than sport." In the Kalhor family, however, both parents encouraged all four children to ski. The family lives in the skiing village of Dizin.

Kalhor qualified for the Olympics by gaining enough International Ski Federation (FIS) points for the slalom at the World Championships last year in Val d'Isere in France and qualified for the giant slalom last year with enough points at any event in Turkey.

Over in the men's events, the fact that the Saveh-Shemshaki brothers elected to enter two events despite the presence of an Israeli in both races has been ignored in the Islamic Republic's media. The fact that nothing has been said hints that the regime may have allowed the brothers to race but censored the news of the Israeli skier at home. However, Iran's five winter Olympians have gotten only minimal attention in the Iranian media.

If the Islamic Republic authorized the brothers to ski against an Israeli, the key question would be why. The regime certainly is not moderating its policy against Israel. But it is possible the Olympic managers told Iran it would not tolerate another case of an Iranian athlete pleading illness and missing an event with an Israeli.

A country is forbidden by international sports federation rules from ducking a competition for political reasons. Iran could be kicked out of sporting events for doing so.

The Winter Olympics were held this year in Canada, which has been almost stridently condemnatory of Iran since dual national Zahra Kazemi died in Tehran in 2003 after a beating in Evin prison. It is possible the Canadians demanded that Iran be held to the rules that have been overlooked before.

For example in he last Summer Olympics in 2008, swimmer Mohammad-Ali Rezai was "too ill" to swim against Israeli Tom Beeri. No disciplinary action was taken against Iran then or after any previous event when the Iranian dropped out when faced with an Israeli.

Four Iranian skiers went to this year's Winter Olympics and competed in five events. All finished near the bottom of their events.

Marjan Kalhor became the first Iranian woman in the winter Olympics and was constantly approached by reporters who were delighted by her.

Kalhor competed in two events, finishing 55th of 55 in the slalom and 60th of 60 in the giant slalom. But she finished--32 of the women in the slalom never got to the finish line and 26 in the giant slalom washed out on the course.

Kalhor seemed determine to finish even if her time was dismal. In the slalom, Kalhor finished her two runs in 2:18.60, which was almost 36 seconds behind the winner. In fact, Kalhor was 13.42 seconds behind the woman who finished in 53rd place. But the top 40 finishers all were closer to the lead than 13.42 seconds.

Kalhor said she realized she had a major challenge because the course in British Columbia was very different than anything at Dizin. She said Dizin's runs are not groomed, so she skis on deep snow. The runs in British Columbia are well groomed so that skiers are going downhill on packed snow that is almost ice.

As for the men, brothers Porya and Hossain SavehShemshaki skied in the men's slalom and giant slalom. Porya finished 60th of 81 finishers in the giant slalom but washed out on the first run in the slalom. Hossain finished 70th of 81 in the giant slalom and 41st of 48 in the slalom.

Seyyed Sattar Seyd competed in the cross-country skiing in the men's 15-kilometer free event. He finished 89th of 95.

Seyd and Kalhor faced no Israelis. The Saveh-Shemshakis faced Israeli Mykhaylo Renzhyn in both races and Renzhyn finished ahead of both of them in both races.
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Title Annotation:text and context
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Mar 5, 2010
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