Dara Alizadeh motivated to finish on crest of a wave
Dara Alizadeh is determined to end his maiden Olympic outing on high after achieving a sense of validation on the world's biggest sporting stage.
The 27-year-old is preparing to once again take to the water at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo to compete in the men's single sculls C/D semi-finals tomorrow, having finished fifth in the quarter-final stages at the weekend.
Despite missing out on a chance to challenge for a medal, Alizadeh has been left satisfied with his endeavours, with the races proving a personal sense of justification that he belongs alongside the world’s elite rowers.
“It’s been an awesome experience,” said Alizadeh, who made up the other half of Bermuda’s two-team contingent at the Games — the other being triathlon gold medal-winner Flora Duffy. “Each day is a reminder just how amazing an opportunity it is to be out here at the Olympic Games.
“Initially, it was a case of everything being the first time I had experienced it and so it was a bit of being caught in the bright lights slightly. However, after that first race, I’ve become more used to it all and each race I feel like I’ve got better and had improved performances.
“Everyone out here is an amazing athlete in their own right and it is just really special to be part of it. I guess you could say I have gained a sense of validation and I feel like I belong here.
“Generally, most people only focus on the medal-winners but I’ve realised everyone here has their own goals and story. For me, being here is amazing and I definitely feel like I belong — from what I’ve experienced so far, it feels right being part of it all.
“Not everyone can win a medal and I’m satisfied with my performance to reach the quarter-finals. As I said, every athlete has their own personal ambitions and for me it was to make sure I improved in each race. I feel that is exactly what I’ve done and so I can only be satisfied.”
Alizadeh will now attempt to build on that momentum as he aims to seize upon the opportunity to further fulfil his own personal aspirations among a field that also includes Husein Alireza, of Saudi Arabia, Cris Nievarez, of the Philippines, Masias Alvaro Torres, of Peru, Quentin Antognelli, of Monaco, and Mohammed Al Khafaji, of Iraq.
"The journey isn't over just yet for me as I still have the C/D semi-final to compete in, he added. "The aim now is to finish in the top three of that semi-final and progress into the C final, that's definitely the target.
“It will a good test and a real battle as all the competitors will now be at a similar level, but I’m feeling good after my other performances.”
Whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s race and subsequent final — C or D — Alizadeh can look back with contentment on a memorable maiden Olympic appearance in Tokyo, which also included the honour of being Bermuda’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony.
“That moment was just the coolest thing I have ever done in my life,” he said in reflecting on the significant moment at the national Stadium. “Even though it was in front of an empty stadium, it was just such a powerful moment to be part of. I just tried to take it all in and I just remember standing there thinking how do I get to this moment.
“I never would have imagined I would have the opportunity to do that and it was just an incredible moment for me personally to be there, proud to be holding the Bermuda flag in front of the world and representing the nation.”
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