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Asylum seeker’s Olympic dreams

21 August 20151 comment
Karate champ_slider

Masoud Parviz at the National Karate Championships in Adelaide.

Masoud Parviz has been humbled by a ‘blind side’ moment.

Just like the character Michael, the subject of the Michael Lewis book, The Blind Side, Iranian asylum seeker Masoud was invited into the home of a middle class Australian family.

And, just like the Sandra Bulloch character in the movie, Leeanne Krista is helping him achieve sporting stardom.

But despite winning three gold medals at the National Karate Championship in Adelaide earlier this month, the 20-year-old is visibly glum.

“I wasn’t really happy because it was selection as well … next competition is World Premiere League in Germany … I’m selected but I’m not Australian citizen so I can’t go there,” he says.

The Karate champion is on a bridging visa awaiting the outcome of his refugee claim so he can compete at an international level for Australia.

“I’m confused about my situation, my future,” he says.

While the Australian government is hopeful of soon striking a deal with the Iranian government to return asylum seekers, Masoud reflects on a fellow asylum seeker’s situation. Shocked to learn of the 19-year-old’s deportation to Iran, Masoud says the teen is now on the run from authorities and trying to survive.

Masoud evades questions about his own situation fearing anything he says could endanger family back in Iran. But he says his problems began when the world of karate collided with Iranian politics.

“I got really good life in Iran before getting in trouble with karate because I got World Championship [title], Asian Championship [title] and then with karate I got in trouble and everything in my life, my problems start with karate,” he says.

“I was in national team … in Iran everything control from the government. Everything, and they said you have to do this and do that.”

Like his western counterparts, the 20-year-old’s passion for the martial art was fuelled by pop culture – Bruce Lee movies and of course the 80’s classic, The Karate Kid.

“All my friends call me Karate Kid in my country,” he says.

Masoud began the sport at just four years of age and by 14 his selection for the national team meant living in karate camp, where training was intense.

“Everyday for five to six hours I’m trained. We was a long time in a camp training for championship tournaments … about nine months to one year just training,” he says.

According to Leeanne, whose three children Jess, 7, Jack, 9, and Max, 11, are all “karate mad”, there is no-one in Australia with the level of training Masoud has had.

“After the Nationals he was the first picked for the Australian team to go to worlds,” she says.

But without a visa he can’t travel overseas. And the head coach told Masoud he would have been Australia’s first chance at a medal.

As he patiently awaits a visa, the elite athlete is conscious of the ticking clock. But he’s used to waiting. After arriving on Christmas Island aged 18, it was a year and a half before he was able to live in the community. Once in Australia, he embarked on an intense training regime that saw him win all his tournaments.

When he turns 21 in just two months he will be ineligible to compete in junior tournaments, and the competition at senior level is much fiercer. He already has his sights set on the Tokyo 2020, where Karate will likely debut as an Olympic sport. By then, at 25, he will have reached his physical peak.

Until then though, Masoud will continue to focus on his great love, Karate, and the love of his new adoptive family.

The Blind Side quote “you’re changing that boy’s life” seems apt in this situation.
But like the feisty Sandra Bulloch character, Leanne insists he’s changing theirs.
In true karate style, which emphazises self-control, Masoud’s healthy eating habits have rubbed off on the Krista kids.

The elite athlete lives on a diet of fruit, vegetables and chicken.

“Because your body recovers… and you get more protein from chicken,” he says.
But for now Masoud is hoping that, as with the character of Michael in The Blind Side, he too will be given a chance to chase his dream of Olympic gold.

Cesira Colleluori
AMES Australia Staff Writer