Iran’s surprise cycling champ wins pass out of compulsory army service
INCHEON, South Korea (AFP) — Iran’s Mohammad Daneshvarkhourram earned himself a pass out of military service by snatching a surprise Asian Games gold in the keirin Thursday, reducing his relieved mother to tears.
The university student was due to start military service after he graduates next year.
But he has earned an exemption with victory at his first ever Asian Games appearance — the only gold for his country in this year’s track events.
“I called my mum afterwards and she couldn’t say anything. All I could hear was crying!” he told AFP.
At just 21 years old, Daneshvarkhourram lined up against defending champion Azizul Awang of Malaysia and his veteran teammate Josiah Ng, but pushed across the line to win a photo finish.
Asked whether he was happy not to have to join the army, he replied, “100 percent.”
“I’m only 21 years old, this is my first Asian Games and I got a medal — I think I can be one of the best in the world,” he said, although currently Daneshvarkhourram ranks only 235th in the world in keirin.
Japan’s Kazunari Watanabe and Malaysia’s Josiah Ng took silver and bronze after third-placed Azizul was disqualified for entering the sprinter’s lane when another rider was already there.
Ng, 34, who has won three silvers in his Asian Games career, was gunning for gold in what he said would be his last Asian Games.
“I’m happy to get a medal at my fourth Asian Games — I really wanted to win, but he was too good!” Ng said.
The Malaysian said he had not fully recovered from a serious crash at the track cycling World Cup in Mexico last year, which left him fighting for his life.
“I’m going to decide with my family and coach whether to cut my losses and retire (or continue competing). It’s 50/50 at the moment,” said Ng.