Soulmas Abbasi Azad
Selma is a rower and coach from Iran now based in USA. She’s a multiple Asian medalist, experienced Junior coach (former national Iran rowing team Junior Head Coach).
Soulmas uses Selma as a nickname. She is mentored by Paul Thompson (Rowing Australia).
01:00 A sporty childhood with her Father who was a wrestler. She competed for Iran in slalom kayak first and then later in rowing.
02:00 she had an accident on a class 3 race in Slovakia and injured her shoulder.
She spent 5 years in the national team and then coached the women’s team for 7 years.
03:30 What made you want to go to the Olympics?
Iran has a talent recognition system for under 16 year olds. At 2000 Sydney Olympics she watched the broadcast. She was dazzled by the opening ceremony. “I wanted to be part of the glory.”
The suffering and pressure of sport is motivating. A string from my heart was connected to the Olympics
She entered the Canoe Slalom competition in Poland. A third grade river is very tough.
In 2008 watching the Olympic parade in Beijing she felt a part of the team even though she didn’t get picked – a grudge. She wrote a note on paper and stuck it to the inside of the closet to read her motivation to go to the Olympics.
09:00 Rowing is carefree on the outside and a war on the inside! She joined the national Iran rowing team 6 months later. Her physical preparation from canoe helped her become a national champion.
10:33 London 2012 qualification was against continental (Asia). The process started many years before. As long as she didn’t remind herself that she was in the Olympics, focus on the same routine as for a World Cup kept her focus.
The opening ceremony was like a full moon in my imagination – I was laughing with my whole heart the whole time. It was like a luminous vacuum with loud voices. Indescribable feeling, incomparable.
People’s eyes are as individual as a fingerprint.
14:30 A day in the life of an Iranian Rower
At a camp I always cared about my sleep. I forced myself to sleep 8 hours plus a nap before practice.
Fatigue after training is physical (and normal) but with sleep it ends. I read an article which said a nap for 30 minutes can increase performance for 10 seconds.
Training session recording and I trained as if it was a race. I wasn’t faithful to the training percentages, although I regret this now.
In my free time I read psychology books. Ekaterina Karsten from Belarus used to knit at camp so I did it too – hats and scarves for my friends.
18:00 I liked all the training except running. I was a conservation person, trying not to get hurt as much as possible. But I couldn’t prevent some injuries. I withdrew from the national team camp in 29:30 I tried to be the first in every day but not the best of the team. This helped prevent my mental exhaustion. I was one of the older athletes which created an expectation among teammates that I would be perfect and the best.
Being a bit older I was really determined. My strengths were commitment to reach a goal.
21:00 In 2017 I was the coach of the national youth rowing team. I was guided by a very experienced coach. He’d spend hours adjusting the rigging for one person on their boat. His style was quick hands and slow slide with a lot of low rate work.
In 2020 her athletes qualified for the Argentina Youth Olympics. She applied through World Rowing for a female coach development programme. It was great to meet other coaches and get improvements. This is what paired her with Paul Thompson. He mailed me his books to Iran for me to read. I was one of the few trainers in the country who had access to these resources.
My LW2x qualified for the Tokyo Olympics and got the best ranking we’d ever had. But due to the covid restrictions they couldn’t take park in the event.
He is one of the massive coaches in the world – flexible and strong acceptance of high performance by coaching 3 different world countries (AU, CHN, GBR).
26:30 On the advice of a friend in 2010 I wrote my dreams in a notebook and wrote 110 wishes in it. These weren’t only for me.
So what should I do? After the Olympics I’d finished my long term plan. Then I opened my wish book by accident. I came up with solutions of my crisis of aimlessness. Following them like a checklist will make my dreams come true. This grounded me. I decided to emigrate to Europe or America and so I went back to my rowing training, continuing it through to 2014. After the Asian Games and winning 2 medals I decided to give up rowing full time.
I chose to move to USA.
30:30 I coached the Iranian junior team while waiting for the immigration system. in 2022 my visa came through.
Salmaz is now looking for coaching work in rowing clubs in USA.
I am building my life from the ground up.
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