One of the most iconic scenes from the Paralympic Movement this year came from the Rio 2016 Olympics Opening Ceremony, where many witnessed Iranian Para- archer Zahra Nemati lead her nation’s delegation into the Maracana Stadium.
The scene opened the eyes of many, bringing greater awareness to Para-athletes and continuing to inspire a generation of not only Muslim women but people in her country with an impairment.
Nemati became the first Para athlete to carry her nation’s flag during the Olympics, and Iran’s second female flag bearer after Lida Fariman did so in 1996.
The scene of Nemati carrying the Iranian flag carried great significance, and that is why it marks at No. 11 in the International Paralympic Committee’s Top 50 Moments of 2016.
“It was my honor as I was the only Paralympian participating in the Olympic Games as the flag bearer,” Nemati told Paralympic.org. “This matter led to change so many minds and people around the world that in spite of many severe challenges, we can make everything possible.”
Nemati added that not many expected to see a woman in a wheelchair carrying the Iranian flag during the Olympics Opening Ceremony.
“That moment was a surprise for the world; I always enjoy surprising the people,” she said.
The two-time Paralympian strongly believed that she raised the profile of the Paralympics when competing in the Olympics.
“Certainly,” she said. “Representing as a Paralympian sent an essential message to the world. That’s an important message that a Paralympian can qualify for Olympics to compete with elite [able-bodied] athletes and also act as a flag bearer for the country. I was so glad to forward this message with my presence in the Rio Olympic Games.”