Hamoon Derafshipour: Refugee Karate-Kumite

Hamoon Derafshipour: Refugee Karate-KumiteHamoon Derafshipour is an Iranian karateka. He qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, where karate will be featured for the first time, as part of the Refugee Olympic Team.

He started practicing karate when he was 7 years old. Previously, Derafshipour won a bronze medal in the Men’s Individual -67 Kg Kumite at the 2018 Senior World Karate Championships at Madrid, Spain and Two Asian Karate Championships titles, and several other medals, including three golds and three bronze in the World Karate Federation Karate1 Premier League Championship.

Hamoon is currently living in Canada with his wife after leaving his country Iran for personal and security reasons.

The 28-year-old and his wife Samira Malekipour, who’s also his coach, left Iran in 2019 for Kitchener, Ont., as he has cousins in nearby Waterloo. In an interview, Derafshipour declined to talk about his reasons for leaving Iran over concern for family members who still live in the country.

Derafshipour was born in Kermanshah, near the Iran/Iraq border. Malekipour, who was the 2010 Asian Games bronze medallist, was coaching Iran’s women’s team when the two met. They married, and opened a karate academy in Iran in 2017.

The two came to Canada just before COVID-19 hit, making for a tough 15 months in Kitchener. While Derafshipour worked at Driftwood Martial Arts in Kitchener, the pandemic protocols meant the gym has been closed during Ontario’s lockdowns. He’s since worked for automotive company, and then raised money through a GoFundMe page for a six-week training camp in Istanbul, his current base.

“Canada is for newcomers, but we started life a little different … it was a hard, hard situation because of the COVID,” he said. “But right now, we are going to Olympics, and we are happy, we are always telling ourselves, ‘We are going to Tokyo to bring my medal back to home, Canada. We’ll look at the Olympics like this.”


Hamoon Derafshipour: Refugee Karate-Kumite
Hamoon Derafshipour: Refugee Karate-Kumite participating at the Paris Open, 2020

“I know being in the Olympics is a good achievement. But for me and for Samira, it’s not. We want a medal, and we want the best medal, the gold one.”

With a strong competition history behind the Iranian karetka, medalling is a very real possibility. For the 28-year-old it would act as a symbol of defiance to those that ever doubted his, and Samira’s, ambitions.

“Everyone told me it would impossible to be in person for this Olympics. Everyone, maybe my close family. But I changed impossible to possible and right now we’re going to Olympics, and I’m so happy.”

Derafshipour’s expectations are not just reserved for him and his wife. He believes that his fellow refugee teammates should also be respected as competitors:

“We [refugees] are not going to the Olympics just to be a person at the Olympics. We are going to the Olympics to bring back our medals and we are competing with all our mind.”

With enough will in the world the Iranian ultimately believes all refugees are capable of achieving whatever they put their mind to. The trick is perseverance.

“I believe if they want to change everything, they can. Just start and keep going and keep going and never give up.”


Hamoon Derafshipour: Refugee Karate-Kumite


Image Source
©2020 – The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games



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