Helia Asghari: First Iran Table Tennis Player Selected as a Young Olympic Ambassador

Helia Asghari, a table tennis player from Iran, has achieved a remarkable milestone by being selected to participate in the 63rd International Session for Young Olympic Ambassadors, as the sole representative from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Her journey began as a participant in the Rising Stars project, an initiative in Iran supported by the ITTF Foundation's Dream Building Fund powered by GSD. With a focus on empowering women and girls, individuals with disabilities, immigrants, club/association members, and those living below the poverty line, the Rising Stars project aims to raise awareness on female rights and promote social inclusion. Helia's selection as the first-ever Iranian representative from table tennis at the YOA Session is a testament to her exceptional skills, dedication, and her role in driving positive change within her community.

The Rising Stars Project

In Iran, the Rising Stars initiative is a Table Tennis for Development (TT4D) project dedicated to raising awareness on human rights among women and girls under the age of 16, individuals with disabilities, immigrants, club/association members, and those living below the poverty line. This transformative project provides target communities with access to a specialised female-only training facility and educational workshops centred around gender equality. Through the inspiration of prominent women figures, participants are equipped with confidence, aspirations, knowledge, skills, and capacities.

Helia's Journey and Selection

Helia Asghari's incredible journey began as a participant in the Rising Stars project, where she showcased her table tennis skills and nurtured her leadership abilities. Her passion for the sport, combined with her dedication to empowering young athletes, led to her appointment as the Impact and Learning Manager for the project. Through her role, Helia played a crucial part in designing and implementing impactful initiatives that have transformed the lives of numerous aspiring table tennis players in Iran.

”We first met Helia in one of the capacity building workshops organised by the ITTF Foundation and supported by the GIZ. She was very interactive, eager to learn, and so passionate – I’m pleased to witness her remarkable development and look forward to seeing what the future holds for her.” Saurabh Mishra, ITTF Foundation Programmes Manager

The Importance of the YOA Session

After undergoing an interview with the Iran National Olympic Committee (NOC), Helia was selected to participate in the YOA Session from 10 to 22 June 2023 in Athens, Greece. This prestigious event, organised by the International Olympic Academy (IOA) since 1961, aims to bring together young people aged 20-30 from various nationalities in a spirit of friendship, cooperation, and the promotion of Olympic values.

"I was among the top 10 Iran senior table tennis players when I joined Spin Club. Through my involvement in the Rising Stars project as first a participant and later additionally as a volunteer, I became familiar with and expanded my interest in other aspects of sports, especially in using table tennis for development. I gained a lot of knowledge and increased my professional development through the project, which has been complemented through various workshops I attended, such as a preliminary online course to potentially become an IOC Young Leader, where I learned about the Olympic movement and values. The main goal of the Olympic Games ‘building a better world using sports’ fascinated me, hence, participating in the Olympic Games became one of my biggest dreams." Helia Asghari

The theme of the 63rd International Session for Young Olympic Ambassadors is 'Innovating physical education and Olympic values education to build a better world'. With a special focus on 'Renewal and rejuvenation: How can the Olympic Movement remain relevant to youth through physical education and Olympic values education', the session aims to explore innovative approaches to promoting inclusive societies through physical education and the dissemination of Olympic values.


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