Tokyo: Iranian defector Kimia Alizadeh shocked two-time Olympic gold medalist Jade Jones at the Tokyo Games, beating the British champion 16-12 in the round of 16.
Alizadeh, a bronze medalist in Rio de Janeiro, won twice for the Refugee Olympic Team on Sunday to advance to the quarterfinals in the women's 57-kilogram division.
Alizadeh beat Iranian opponent Nahid Kiyani Chandeh 18-9 in her opening bout in Tokyo. She followed it two hours later with a massive upset of Jones, who was attempting to become the first three-time taekwondo gold medalist and the first British woman in any sport to win gold at three consecutive Olympics.
The 23-year-old Alizadeh became the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal when she pushed through repechage for an impressive bronze in Rio, but she is competing for the refugee team after defecting to Germany in early 2020.
The refugee team has never won an Olympic medal. It has three taekwondo competitors among its 29 athletes.
Alizadeh cited institutional sexism and the mandatory wearing of the hijab headscarf in her criticisms of the Iranian system, which she decried for using her for propaganda purposes in a passionate letter announcing her defection.
Kiyani wore a headscarf in the bout against Alizadeh, who comfortably earned the victory in Tokyo.
Alizadeh then upset Jones with a stirring third-round performance. Their bout was tied 10-10 with just 30 seconds left, but Alizadeh scored a pair of two-point body kicks to take the lead before hanging on for the four-point victory.
Alizadeh screamed and celebrated with her coach while the small crowd of Olympians and support personnel in the Makuhari Messe convention center erupted with astonished roars at the biggest upset of the taekwondo tournament.
Alizadeh will face Zhou Lijun of China later Sunday for a semifinal berth.
Alizadeh is very popular on social media, where she added several thousand more admirers to her Instagram account in the hours immediately after her victory over Jones.
She was the latest in a series of high-profile defections from the Iranian sports system by athletes dissatisfied with the government's treatment and policies.
In April, the International Judo Federation suspended Iran for four years because the nation refused to allow its fighters to face Israelis. The IJF said Iran's policies were revealed when former Iranian judo competitor Saeid Mollaei claimed he was ordered to lose in the semifinals of the 2019 world championships in Tokyo to avoid potentially facing Israeli world champion Sagi Muki in the finals.
Mollaei defected to Germany in 2019, and he is representing Mongolia at the Tokyo Olympics when he begins competition Tuesday.
Alireza Faghani, a prominent international football referee, left Iran for Australia in 2019.