Shahrad Nasajpour – Refugee Olympic Team

Shahrad Nasajpour

Nasajpour was born with cerebral palsy that left him with some mobility limitations on his left side. In 2015 he left Iran for the USA. He attended the Rio 206 Paralympics as an Independent Refugee Athlete. He is now a member of the Refugee Paralympic Team in Tokyo 2020.

Nasajpour says his relationship with the sport wasn’t love at first sight, but after a few weeks, he was hooked. He made the Iranian national team in 2011 and traveled to two international competitions with those athletes.

Nasajpour left the team after several years in part because of its religious practice requirements, regardless of athletes’ personal beliefs. He says he appreciates that athletes in the U.S. are valued because of their performance rather than their point of view.

Other adjustments Nasajpour has had to make in his life include the ways he stays in touch with his family in Iran. And although he’s grateful for messaging apps that have allowed him to communicate with his family, he says fleeing to the U.S. alone has been a difficult experience.



Joining the Paralympics

In early 2016, he contacted the International Paralympic Committee suggesting the idea of forming a refugee team for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. He became one of two Independent Paralympic Athletes to compete at the Games. “In the spring of 2016, I was one of the first people to reach out to the International Paralympic Committee about having a team for Rio 2016. I just heard the news that the International Olympic Committee was going to form a team for the Olympics. Then it came to my mind, ‘What about the Paralympics?’ I think my early emails helped ignite things. When you have a group, you get more attention. It’s so great to see more athletes involved now. I hope this gets bigger and bigger in the coming years. The spirit of the Paralympics is something else. When you’re at the Games and competing and seeing the people, you feel something else, something special. So you don’t want to quit.” (, 15 Aug 2019;, 03 Aug 2017, 09 Jun 2021)

Asylum in the United States

He was granted asylum in the United States of America after leaving the Islamic Republic of Iran in late 2015. Having initially arrived in San Francisco, California, he was later assisted by non-profit organisation Buffalo Peace House in the state of New York. Ahead of the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, he selected Buffalo Peace House to receive 10,000 USD through the Athletes for Good Fund. “You’re somewhere where you don’t know anyone. You’re in a new world. And it’s just you versus you. They [Buffalo Peace House] really helped me start my life and figure things out. That’s the place where I could start thinking about doing sports again. I am happy I can give back to them for what they did for me.” (, 09 Jun 2021)

Further Education

He studied public administration at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ, United States of America. He has been admitted to George Washington University in Washington, DC, United States of America, to study for a master of business administration [MBA] degree after the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. (Athlete, 19 Nov 2019;, 09 Jun 2021)
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Refugee Paralympics Team



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