Paris 2024: New weight, same goal for Iran’s Vahid Nouri

History-making judoka aiming to carry winning streak into next Paralympics 02 May 2024
Iranian judoka Vahid Nouri with his gold medal hanging around his neck and his hand on his chest while listening to the Iranian national anthem
Vahid Nouri is Iran's first-ever Paralympic judo champion
ⒸGetty Images
By Amp Media | For the IPC

For many Paralympians, competing at the Games is all about ‘the journey’, not getting too far ahead of yourself – focus on the process and the results will take care of themselves. Not Vahid Nouri – the Iranian judoka has his eyes firmly on the prize. 

“My goal is to achieve a gold medal at Paris 2024, making it my second consecutive gold in the Paralympics, and I am determined to achieve this goal. I am meticulously planning and preparing for this opportunity."  

Yet, despite his laser focus, Nouri almost certainly wouldn’t have made history as Iran’s first-ever Paralympic judo gold medallist were it not for a sliding doors moment: the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games because of Covid-19. 

“Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, it had a positive impact on my sports career,” he explained. “The delay allowed me to undergo surgery on a torn cruciate ligament, which otherwise would have prevented me from participating in the Tokyo Games. 

“This additional year of preparation enabled me to compete in the biggest sports event of my career and aim for the top position. I anticipate Paris to be even more challenging than Tokyo.” 

Discovering the joy of judo 

He took up judo as a teenager and it quickly gave him a sense of purpose.  

“My journey with judo has been significantly more successful than my life before it,” the Tehran native said. “Judo has brought me more joy in life than ever before. It has instilled in me a fighting spirit, motivation and improved my overall health. 

“I began practising judo in 2007 and for the last 13 years I have been dedicated to pursuing it professionally. I find it great satisfaction and enjoyment in being part of this sport discipline. 

“I dedicate five days a week to training, with two days set aside for rest and recovery. Each day, I spend two hours in the morning at the gym and another two hours in the evening for specialised judo training.  

“Both bodybuilding and fitness exercises are crucial, alongside technical practices in judo, as the sport requires endurance and speed. It's important to focus on these factors in training. 

“Typically, blind judo teams in the Para division have a small number of athletes. Many successful countries, such as Great Britain, France, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, train alongside Olympians.  

“Training with non-disabled athletes can be challenging but beneficial for improving technical skills, enabling better competition against Para athletes on the judo mat. 

From retirement plans to planning for Paris 

This joined-up approach has certainly helped Iran in recent years. After Nouri secured gold in the -90kg category in Tokyo, the only other member of their Paralympic judo team, Mohammadreza Kheirollahzadeh, repeated the trick in the +100kg. 

Nouri, who keeps his gold medal among his personal collection at home, said: “Reflecting on the Tokyo final, it was satisfying to achieve victory over my opponent with Ippon [a throw, pin, choke or jointlock that scores 10 points, equivalent to a knockout punch in boxing]. My opponent happened to be one of my best friends from the UK, Elliot Stewart. Prior to the Games, we had discussed facing each other in the final, and it was fulfilling to see that plan come to fruition. 

four Para judokas chatting with their medals
Nouri (second left) with his fellow -90kg medallists at Tokyo 2020 © Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

“Securing the first judo gold medal for Iran in Paralympic history was a source of immense pride. This achievement not only inspired other Paralympic judokas in Iran but also served as a source of inspiration for our Olympic athletes, demonstrating the potential for success in various international competitions.” 

One such athlete is fellow judoka Meysam Banitaba, who is expected to compete in Paris in the -60kg J1 category.  

“Meysam is a motivated and skilled judoka with minimal losses in recent years,” Nouri said. “Despite his lighter weight, he excels technically, and I am confident he will achieve one of the top medals.” 

Nouri has been undefeated since Tokyo, winning gold at the 2022 Asian Para Games in Hangzhou, China, the 2023 IBSA World Games in Birmingham, England, and the 2024 IBSA World Grand Prix in Heidelberg, Germany. And unlike at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, all these events have been open to the public. 

“I had previous experience of competing in front of large crowds and fans at various events. I am looking forward to the presence of many spectators at the arena in Paris, as I believe it will greatly boost my motivation. 

“While personally my goal is to win a medal and raise my country’s flag, on a national level, it is to showcase Iran’s high level of Para judo for all to see. 

“Our success in winning two gold medals in Tokyo led to a resurgence of interest in Para judo in Iran. This brought greater attention to our discipline and earned us respect within society, resulting in heightened expectations for us.” 

Given Nouri’s “sole focus” is to win gold in Paris, however, the greatest expectations will always be those he has of himself. 


Book your tickets for the Paralympic Games by visiting the Paris 2024 ticketing website.