Iran’s Madhi Pourrahnmaahmad has been virtually unbeatable in the men’s up to 75kg K44. This year, the taekwondo fighter looks to stay on pace toward Tokyo 2020, where the sport will make its Paralympic debut.
The 22-year-old already has six World Championship medals, including the last four world titles, and is a three-time Asian champion. He closed 2017 with gold at the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) World Games in December.
The victory put him 150 points ahead of his nearest rival in his division. But he needs to maintain that form.
“The final success is Tokyo,” Pourrahnmaahmad said. “Rankings mean little if you don’t qualify for the Paralympics.”
He has won every tournament he has participated in – including a demonstration bout at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. His sole blemish since 2012 was a shock loss at last year’s European Open final to Russia’s No. 3-ranked Magomedzagir Isaldibirov.
Still, the “Iranian Hurricane” does not take anything for granted.
“I’m so happy that the competition is increasing,” he said. “I hope one day it will be a worldwide event.”
The trick for competing at his level is following the strict training schedule from the Iranian taekwondo federation, which sees him train twice daily for up to three months before an event.
“I’m not the most powerful athlete. I have to use my brain, my head for advantages,” he explained. “I try to change my strategy every year, because [my opponents] ‘read my hand’ [by watching competition videos].”
“You’re not training alone – you’re a team,” he added. “I appreciate my teammates and my technical team. You may fight one-on-one, but I don’t believe I’m alone.”
Born without his right hand, Pourrahnamaahmad picked up the sport at a young age as his father wanted him to do something with his feet. A prodigy from early on, his first World Championship medal was a bronze – at the age of just 16.
“Taekwondo chose me,” he recalled.
He also credits his father for getting him involved all those years ago.
“Every day he would bring me, watch me, complain if I lost,” he laughed. “He’d even tell me what I did wrong if I won.”