For three years, Omid Ebrahimi had to rely on phone calls, emails and occasional video chats to keep in contact with his sister, Aida, halfway around the globe.
He was in Iran. She was in Washington D.C.
That’s all they had.
Until an archery-related opportunity presented itself last week. Omid qualified for Iran’s recurve men’s team, which traveled to Yankton last week for the World Archery Indoor Championships. That meant his sister’s vow would come true.
“She said, ‘If you come here for the World Championships, I will be there to see you,’” Omid said Sunday at the NFAA Easton Yankton Archery Center.
And she was.
After three years apart, brother and sister were together again, at least for a little bit.
“It was very fun to see him again,” Aida said Sunday.
Aida, a year older than her brother, moved from Iran to the United States nearly five years ago. She now co-owns a medical spa in the Washington D.C. metro area and wants to eventually become a dermatologist.
Omid, meanwhile, picked up the sport of archery four years ago and was eventually selected for the Iranian national team. And that set the stage for him to eventually have the chance to travel to Yankton for the World Championships.
The visa process was certainly a complicated one, they said, as the Iranian team was granted visas 2-3 days before they left for the United States.
Omid made sure to call his sister to let him know for sure that he would be coming to South Dakota.
“It was really surprising for me when I looked at a map and saw that this city (Yankton) doesn’t have an airport,” Aida said.
She was able to find a flight from D.C. to Chicago and then one to Sioux City, Iowa. From there, she drove up to Yankton.
And after three years, they were reunited in Yankton. All because of archery.
“I hugged and kissed her,” Omid said with a smile. “I was so happy to see her.”
Asked Sunday if her brother looks much different than he did the last time she saw him, Aida pointed to her hair.
“He has some gray hair now,” she said with a smile.
Three years has seemed like a long time, Omid said, but once he was finally reunited — briefly — with his sister, it was as if they were never separated.
“She’s my sister; my only sister,” Omid said. “I love her with all my heart.
“I cannot even explain how happy I was to see her, but I’m so happy I could be here with the national team for this competition.”
If not for his qualification for the Iranian team, he wouldn’t have been able to make the trip to the United States, Omid said.
“If I wasn’t on the national team, I couldn’t come here,” Omid said. “I couldn’t get an individual visa. With the national team, I could.”
After all, it was archery that brought him to Yankton.
At the World Championships, Omid competed in the individual recurve men’s division, as well as with the recurve men’s team. He did not advance out of the first round of qualifications, and neither did the Iranian team.
His sister was there watching the whole time.
“Unfortunately their team lost, but I was very happy for the junior team,” Aida said.
Iran’s recurve junior men’s team captured a gold medal Sunday morning, which was later pointed out to be the country’s first-ever recurve medal at a world competition.
“I was so proud of them,” Omid said. “Those were our junior players and they got a gold medal. They reached the top point and I’m really so happy for them.”
Before Omid and the Iranian archers prepared to leave Yankton on Sunday for their journey back home, he was asked about his experience in Yankton — one of his first responses, of course, had to do with the weather.
“It’s a lovely place,” Omid said. “The people are lovely and friendly. Yankton is cold, but I love it.”
Archery was what brought him to the United States, but Omid said he was excited for the secondary opportunity to see his sister after three years.
“I was really happy to come to the United States to this event and to visit my sister,” he said.
Italians Realize Dreams
Although the three archers admitted later that they had to overcome some personal differences throughout the week, the junior women’s recurve team from Italy captured a gold medal Sunday morning.
The Italian trio of Tatiana Andreoli, Tanya Giaccheri and Aiko Rolando defeated the Russian Federation 6-0 in the gold medal match — the day’s first match.
“I’m so happy; so excited,” the 19-year-old Andreoli said, through translation from her coach.
“Defeating the Russians is my biggest dream. They are one of the strongest teams in the world.”
Italy advanced through the qualification round of the team bracket and then beat Mexico to advance to Sunday’s finals.
“It was a very good week for them,” coach Giovanni Falzoni said, through translation.
“They had good technical performances, even though they had some little problems and mistakes at the individual level.”
It all culminated with a strong performance in Sunday’s gold medal match.
“There is a lot of pressure out there,” Falzoni said. “But we had a very good team in the final and they showed their potential.”
And now the trio will head home with a gold medal.
“I’m so happy,” the 16-year-old Rolando said, through translation. “This is my first Indoor Championships, and this is such an amazing feeling.”
History For Team Iran
Thanks to a dramatic comeback Sunday morning, a trio of young men from Iran will head home with their country’s first-ever recurve medal in a world competition.
Coach Behzad Pakzad said his team’s gold medal victory over Ukraine in the recurve junior men’s team division was his country’s first.
“It’s a beginning of a new wave of archery in Iran,” Pakzad said, through translation.
“This might help us get better results in other divisions in the future.”
Ukraine led the match 4-0, but Iran responded with back-to-back wins to tie the match to force a tiebreaker
They then won the tiebreaker 26-25. Iran’s team members included Seyedabolfazl Hosseini, Kiyan Moradi and Reza Shabani.
“I told them, ‘You have to try to be your best from beginning to end,’” Pakzad said. “You can’t retreat, even when it’s the last arrow.”
It’s part of the learning experience that Pakzad said he wants to instill in the young archers from Iran.
“I wanted them to understand that even when you’re behind, you’re not defeated,” Pakzad said.
For the Iranian team to even reach the gold medal match was a study in perseverance, according to Pakzad. The trip from Iran to Yankton took 40-42 hours, which led to some serious jet lag.
“When we came here, our archers were tired because of the travel and time difference,” Pakzad said, through translation.
“Their bodies weren’t ready for two days.”
Germans Recover For Gold
A handful of the archers at the Indoor Championships have been or still are battling flu-like conditions, but the Germany recurve women’s team still found a way to capture a gold medal Sunday.
The trio of Lisa Unruh, Elena Richter and Michelle Kroppen defeated Russia in Sunday afternoon’s gold medal match.
Not only did the German archers have to overcome those illnesses, they had to survive the tense, dramatic battle in the finals.
“We stayed focused on our technique,” Unruh said. “That’s the main part.”
A significant change from the settings archers competed in last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the finals venue on Sunday was a specially-designed setup with video boards, scoreboards and other backdrops.
“The finals venue is really nice,” Richter said. “I enjoyed all the pictures in the back and the lighting and everything.
“It makes for a really good atmosphere.”
Within an hour and a half, Richter would follow up her team’s gold medal with one of her own. She won the recurve women’s championship over Aida Roman of Mexico.
And again, her illness bothered her, Richter said.
“I felt very weak,” she said. “Although I felt weak, I did my job and focused on my shots.”
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