Shirin Gerami

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To represent Iran, I need to race in clothes that respect the rules and conditions of the country. In the lead up to the ITU World Champs London, one of the main defining points of whether I would get permission to race or not was down to the clothes I proposed to race in.

I presented to the sport deputy minster the sportswear I proposed to race in, to which she added the changes she saw appropriate and asked me to go to a workshop with the amended design.To put time and the urgency of the situation in context, I was sent to Merooj, the sports workshop on Saturday. I was scheduled to fly back to London on Tuesday, as the race was on Sunday.

I found myself in Merooj, a bustling workshop with phones ringing non-stop and people running up and down the stairs in a frenzy to get everything done. I explained my situation to someone in the workshop, sheepishly adding that I’ll have to have to the clothes by tomorrow or latest Monday morning. How many pieces, he asked. Just one, I replied. He unceremoniously showed me to the door.

At that moment a lady came into the room. I explained my story to her, and she called in, Dr. S, the workshop manager. Dr. S listened to my story, called in the tailor and asked him to help me out. Objecting about the timeline, Dr. S asked him to drop what he was working on to make sure I get the clothes in time. The tailor said he’ll try to get it ready by tomorrow evening. That would leave me with Monday to take the garments to the ministry for approval.

It was now Sunday afternoon. I called the workshop but they hadn’t had the chance to finish the clothes. Monday morning, I went there hoping to take the sportswear to the ministry as soon as it was finished. The clock just ticked on mercilessly, 9:00, 11:00, 13:00… my heart was starting to skip a beat by now. I ran into the sewing room and start begging, everyone was working as hard as possible, but the garment was simply not finished!!! 14:00… I just didn’t know what to do. I ran into the sewing room again, whatever you’ve done, its enough! I said. I’ll take what’s available to the ministry before they close. But we haven’t sewn the seams, or the pockets or the… I can always bring it back to you afterwards for the finishing touches! Just let me get the general form approved!

It was around 14:30 by then, I called up the ministry to say I’m on my way. They said we’re about to leave. I asked them to stay for an extra half hour so that I could get the clothes approved. They couldn’t. I still had Tuesday morning, my flight was in the afternoon. There was still hope. The most productive thing I could do was to make sure that the clothes are finished and flawless, completely ready for tomorrow, so I put the clothes on for the first time to check the fitting.

That sinking feeling as I tried to wriggle it on! It is a good 2-3 sizes too small with the sleeves and length of the top far too short, and the whole garment so tight I could barely breathe… There was no way on earth the ministry would ever approve it. I’d created such chaos in the workshop for the past two days, they’d put so much effort into this… what do I do?!!

Dr. S asked me about the clothes. I’m trying to think of a modification, something, anything that would shed some hope to the situation. I didn’t have the heart to tell the truth, but the only words that came out of my mouth were: It’s just too small. On one hand, I was now so relieved that the people at the ministry were not able to stay for another half hour – otherwise it would have been game over. But how on earth would I be able to make suitable clothes by tomorrow morning?!! ‘Mr. Youssef’, says the manager to the tailor. It may be an overnight job, but you need to help this lady out. I was speechless! I had already created so much inconvenience, – and he was still willing to go further, to help me so much!

To help is human, to care is human, but to go out of ones way to this extent, to still keep on helping despite the enormous amount he had already done, and the emotional and financial cost he’d already embraced, is pure angel. The sportswear I raced in will always remind me of the sheer emotional ride of those two days and Merooj Sport’s unshakable support to produce them for me. You really were my saviour angels.

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