Iranian journalist breaks the ice for women in sport

Sochi, Feb10, 2014: Months before the Winter Olympics officially began, Sochi 2014 was already breaking records and making headlines. So much has been written about $51 billion spending, politics, rights and unfinished toilets that it might be time to turn to a different, brighter record. Leily Khorsand, 37, is a sports journalist from Iran, covering her country’s bid for a surprise medal in Sochi. She is also the first female journalist from Iran to cover a Winter Olympic Games.

Leily started out as a journalism graduate from Tehran, covering national skiing events held at Iran’s two largest resorts, Dizin and Shemshak. Fifteen years later she has broken the ice, and the gender barrier, becoming an inspiration to Iranian female journalists along the way.

“It is quite an experience to be here,” said a smiling Khorsand. “Every detail is so interesting, and a world away from working at the office, or covering a national event. I will work hard, but work hard to enjoy it as well.”

While she has a number of female colleagues at the Tehran-based sports magazine Tamashagaran, Leily agrees that things can always be better. She believes that her being in Sochi is an important step for equality in Iran. “Women need to be heard, seen and taken seriously, and prove how qualified they are. Girls will look at reports from me and other female colleagues and think, ‘Women can do the same things as men’. That’s the goal.”

Alpine and cross-country skiing are where Iran’s Sochi hopes lie. The country’s five competing athletes – two of which are women – are already heroes in Tehran, according to Leily.

“I am looking forward to their performances. They are not strong medal favourites, but I think they have a very good chance to make a name for themselves and for Iran on the Olympic stage.”

The athletes are yet to have their say, but Khorsand has already done her country, and the Olympic spirit, proud. —- OCA/By Sonja Nikcevic, AIPS Young Reporter – Serbia

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