Gholam Reza Takhti
Gholam Reza Takhti, nicked name Jahan Pahlevan, was born in August 27, 1930, in Tehran. He was raised in poor circumstances. He trained in a makeshift sports hall until he left Tehran to work as an oil worker. After being drafted into the army he was introduced to freestyle wrestling, He won his first Iranian championship in 1950, and became the first Iranian wrestler to win an international medal when he gained a silver medal in the World Championships at Helsinki in 1951., followed by silver at the Helsinki Olympics. He is most famous for his chivalrous behavior and sportsmanship, and he continues to symbolize the essence of sport to the Iranian people.
Takhti started as a middleweight wrestler. In the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and when he was only 22 years old, he managed to win the silver medal in the 79 kg weight category. 4 years later and in Melbourne, he went one better and along the other great Iranian wrestler, EmamAli Habibi, became the first Olympic gold winner for his country. This was achieved in the 87 kg weight category. He won gold in the 1959 Tehran World championships and later he participated in World Championships of Yokohama (Japan) and Toledo (Ohio, USA) and respectively won gold and silver medals.
As he was getting heavier, he decided to move up to the next weight, 97 kg, for the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. But this proved to be one competition too many for the great champion. He competed unsuccessfully at the Tokyo Olympics and 1966 World championships due to his being chosen for adverse political reasons. Although he had retired from competition, the government of the time attempted to discredit him in the eyes of the people with whom he was extremely popular, particularly from an anti-government stance. Though he lost in the last two competitions his popularity was not diminished.
In 1962, tere was a terrible earthquake that occurred in Bou’in-Zahra, in western Iran. It killed 45,000 people. Takhti was deeply touched by the suffering of those caught in the quake and because he was already one of Iran’s biggest stars, he began to walk one of the main avenues of Tehran, asking the people for assistance for the quake victims. He inspired other champions to follow in his footseps, and thousands gave to alleviate the suffering.
Takhti was very fair minded while competing against rivals during his career, something which originated from his traditional values taught in the Zurkhaneh gym. This heroic behavior is an example of the chivalrous qualities called Javanmardi.
For instance, once he had a match with Russian wrestler Alexander Medved who had an injured right knee. When Takhti found out that Medved was injured, he avoided touching the injured leg and tried to attack the other leg instead. He lost the match, but showed that he valued honorable behavior more than victory.
Another example of his character comes from a match in Moscow. After defeating the then-world champion Anatoli Albul, Takhti saw the sorrow on the face of Albul’s mother. Takhti went to her and said, “I’m sorry about the result, but your son is a great wrestler.” She smiled and kissed him.
Takhti mysteriously died on January 7, 1968. His death was “officially” listed as a suicide, but the popular opinion was one of political assassination by government security service known as “SAVAK”. Takhti was a national hero, his funeral, organized by Hossein Towfigh, editor in chief of the late Towfigh magazine, drew hundreds of thousands of mourners. Towfigh magazine issued a special edition of their popular weekly magazine and they caricatured Takhti with angel wings flying high above the throngs of Iranian mourners at his own funeral. The caption read “Don’t cry for me, cry for your own plight.” This was a direct reference to the plight of the Iranian people under the dictatorial regime of the Shah, but it also showed Takhti’s democratic beliefs, one of the reasons accounted for his mysterious death. Towfigh magazine was shut down by the Shah for several months after printing this cartoon. Takhti is buried at Ebn-e Babooyeh cemetery in Southern part of Tehran, near Shahr-e Ray, where he is commemorated every year by his fans, even now many years after his death. He was survived by his wife and son, Babak Takhti, an author and translator. The movie Takhti, begun by Ali Hatami and finished by Behrooz Afkhami, examined some of the theories about Takhti’s death.
The late Gholamreza Takhti is the highest ranked Iranian wrestler in history of Iranian wrestling. With one gold (1956 Melbourne) and two silver medals (1952 Helsinki, 1960 Rome) in Olympic games, and two gold (1959 of Tehran, 1961 of Yokohama) and again two silver medals (1951 of Helsinky, 1962 of Toledo) in World Championships, the legendary Takhti is the most celebrated wrestler in Iranian wrestling.