US Delegation Headed to Iran

March 02, 2018, 8:02 p.m. (ET)

This weekend an American delegation will travel to Ashvaz, Islamic Republic of Iran to take part in the 3rd Fajr Cup-- a trip that will further solidify the United States' role as a pioneer of women's weightlifting.

While in Iran, USAW Chair and IWF Vice President Ursula Garza Papandrea will lead a camp of female Iranian weightlifters.

"It is a great honor to be able to run this camp for these fellow women athletes," Garza Papandrea said. "I look forward to meeting with them and helping them on the road to success."

Papandrea is a trailblazer herself. She's the first-- and so far the only-- woman ever elected to the IWF Vice Presidency. She is also the first woman to earn USAW's highest coaching certification, Senior International Coach. A former World Athlete, National and Olympic Festival Champion, Papandrea is at the forefront of the expanding role of women in the sport.

"We hope to welcome the Iranian team to future championships to compete alongside Team USA in the future," USA Weightlifting CEO Phil Andrews said.

Derrick Johnson (62kg, Texas Barbell Club, West Hollywood, CA) will represent Team USA in the competition while Sally van de Water (New Park, PA), an IWF Category 2 Referee, will serve as a Technical Official at the competition.

The Fajr Cup competition runs March 6-11, with the camp held on March 8.

Full Statement from USAW Chair and IWF VP Ursula Garza Papandrea:
The dream to be an Olympian is one I shared with millions around the world. Most of us do not actually achieve that dream, like me. But just to live the dream, to work towards it, to push and challenge yourself everyday, to strive to excel at one thing, is an experience worth having in life. One that teaches you about who you are, who you can be, and helps you develop beyond one's potential, physically, mentally and spirituality. It is about the sport and it's challenges and winning and losing with grace and honor, becoming the best you can be in the face of success and failure.

To be any part of someone's Olympic dream is an incredible honor. I have been fortunate enough to play various roles in several athletes' plights. Any role, however, minute it may seem contributes. To be the spark, the inspiration, the coach, a sponsor, a supporter, a fan..... everyone has some part in pushing and keeping the flame going. I applaud and honor those who want to bring this dream to the young women of Iran. They will no doubt make this country proud.

Sports is also about representing your country. And making your country proud on the international stage. It's about seeing the world, learning about people and cultures and expanding your viewpoint so that you don't live in a myopic mindset. So I am extremely humbled and honored to be a guest and to learn about Iran and the Iranian culture. And I am honored to be selected to spend time with the Iranian women weightlifters. I cannot wait to see how the sport progresses in Iran. I am sure given the amazing success of Iranian men's weightlifting, it won't be long before we see an Iranian woman stand atop an Olympic podium.