Shahin Nasirinia was a legend for Iran, the Peyton Manning of the weightlifting world.
The 40-year-old weightlifter pulled off what is considered the biggest upset in the sport’s history, defeating heavy favorite Greek lifter Pyrros Dimas in the 1999 World Championships. Nasirinia became the first Iranian in the 80-year history of the light heavyweight category to win gold, and he went on to compete at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2004 Athens Olympics for Iran.
Today he has a new job — helping Team USA win gold. Nasirinia started helping the United States weightlifting team and was with the team as they competed at the 2016 Rio Summer Games.
But all that could be gone now because of President Donald Trump’s ban on immigration from Muslim countries. Nasirinia hails from Iran, one of the nations named in Trump’s executive order. Like others holding Iranian citizenship, Nasirinia will no longer be able to return to the United States after traveling abroad.
That means the Arizona resident and green card holder will no longer be able to travel with the team to international competitions, won’t be able to make his annual return home to Iran — unless he plans on not returning.
The loss of Shahin Nasirinia could be a major blow to the U.S. weightlifting team. He is considered one of the top coaches in the world — Barbend called him “the best weightlifting coach in America you’ve never heard of” — and it was considered a major coup that Team USA could bring him on to help train its athletes.
After his 15-year lifting career came to an end, Nasirinia served as coach of Iran’s junior team from 2005 to 2007. The Iranian weightlifting legend said he started to think about moving to the United States to continue coaching, and soon got that opportunity, VOA News reported.
“He got his green card that would allow him to work, and he and his wife, Farahnaz, made a visit to the U.S. in 2007. After two weeks, they located some friends and relatives in the American West who suggested they stay if they liked it. And they did. They had brief stays in California and Las Vegas before settling in Arizona.”
Nasirinia coached the Mexican team at the 2012 London Olympics, and later that year started coaching in the United States for one of the top lifters, Alex Lee.
But it was another lifter who helped Shahin Nasirinia become an Olympic coach for the U.S. team, VOA News added.
“It was at last year’s World Weightlifting Championships in Houston that USA Weightlifting representatives saw Nasirinia and remembered him from 1999. And it was in Houston that female weightlifter Morghan King asked Nasirinia to help coach her.”
“That’s how he ended up in Rio with USA Weightlifting.”
In Rio, Nasirinia helped with all of Team USA’s weightlifters, the report added.
He seems quite proud of the work, posting many pictures to his social media accounts with his Team USA shirt.
— shahin nasirinia (@ShahinNasirinia) February 28, 2016
But now he’s in danger of leaving the team for good. Shahin Nasirinia told VOA News that he returns to Iran once a year for a few weeks, a trip that would leave him unable to return to the United States under Donald Trump’s ban on immigration from majority Muslim nations.
— shahin nasirinia (@ShahinNasirinia) August 9, 2016
Nasirinia is not the only figure from the sports world affected by Trump’s immigration ban. There are a handful of NBA players from Sudan, another one of the countries listed in Trump’s executive order. One of those players, the Milwaukee Bucks’ Thon Maker, was on a flight back from playing the Toronto Raptors at the time the ban went into effect and at risk of being stuck in Canada. He was able to arrive into the United States safely, but several team owners and top officials have denounced the ban, and the league has issued a statement seeking clarification from the State Department.
“We have reached out to the State Department and are in the process of gathering information to understand how this executive order would apply to players in our league who are from one of the impacted countries,” said NBA spokesman Mike Bass (via Yahoo! Sports).
“The NBA is a global league and we are proud to attract the very best players from around the world.”
Ironically, Nasirinia is as far from an Islamic radical as possible. In fact, he told VOA News that he doesn’t even like to get involved in political matters.
“Honestly, I don’t like to talk about politics and these things. I don’t have any opinions on that. I am a sportsman. Ask me about sports, about weightlifting,” he said.
Unfortunately for Shahin Nasirinia, he may not have much do with sports or weightlifting with Donald Trump’s Muslim immigration ban in effect.
[Featured Image by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images]