With Brother on His Side, Mohammadreza Geraei Hopes to Make Tokyo Special
Saturday, April 10, 2021 - 05:07 By Vinay Siwach
"He got it done in Nur-Sultan. I did it in Almaty. Now, we will do it in Tokyo."
Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) is a proud brother. Less than two years after his elder brother Mohammadali qualified Iran for the Tokyo Olympics at 77kg (GR) through the Nur-Sultan World Championships, the younger did the same at 67kg at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Almaty, Kazakhstan on Friday. Now, he is ready to capture the coveted medal alongside his brother come August in the Japanese capital.
"It's a pleasure and honor to go to the Olympics with my brother, and he can definitely help me develop and reach the goal of winning an Olympic medal," Geraei said. "Having him there is great as a partner, support system and teacher."
Mohammadali, popularly known as 'The Falcon,' is a two-time world medalist and has been one of the most consistent Iranian wrestlers in recent times.
The products of the famous Takhti Academy in Iran, the two brothers have been each others' motivators since childhood. Two of the three kids of the Geraeis, Mohammadreza has been following in the footsteps of his two-year elder brother Mohammadali, thanks to their father.
"I am very lucky to come from a wrestling family. My father pushed me into wrestling at a very young age," he says.
Wrestling since the age of 10, Geraei quickly became one of the best talents to come out of Iran. Not only he has qualified Iran for the Games, he won the gold medal later in the evening with 9-0 thrashing of two-time world champion and Korean legend Hansu RYU (KOR).
It was not the only technical superiority win for him on Friday, though. Geraei began his day just liked his finished, with a 9-0 win. Up against Sheroz OCHILOV (TJK) in the qualifying round, he completed a 52-second 8-0 win with two bodylock throws.
The quarterfinals were no different as he handed Ahmad Mahmoud Ahmed DAHSHAN (JOR) an 8-0 thrashing. With one step away from joining his brother in Tokyo, Geraei brought his best against Asian Championships bronze medalist ASHU (IND). After winning a point for Ashu's passivity, the Iranian made little work of the Indian with big throws taking two, four and two points.
"Everything worked for my benefit. I have been preparing for this and my body is prepared," he said. "I was able to achieve what I was training for and I will continue to do so."
Even after that, the '19 champion knew the task was still not finished. Facing the veteran Ryu in final, he went right after a reverse lift from the par terre position. Leading 5-0 lead at the break, he came back to hit another four-point throw and completed a 3-minute 45-second win at an empty Baluan Sholak Palace of Culture and Sports.
Born in the Shiraz city in southern Iran, Geraei was pushed into wrestling by his father to continue hia family's tradition.
"We are three brothers. Our development coach Rahim Givi is one of best who helped me a lot and my family always supported me," he says. "We were always committed to wrestling and there was little to no time for other things."
Despite a great base, Gereai found that success at the international stage was hard to come by. After a few wins at the junior level, he failed to claim the big medals. Even after regular participation, the medal at world level eluded him.
In 2019 he made the world take notice as he became the Asian champion at 72kg in Xi'an, China. In the same year, he became world champion. In an incredible run at the U23 World Championships in Budapest, Geraei handed defeats to two former age-group champions to claim the gold medal.
Just when things were looking up, life came to a standstill. A few weeks before the World Championships in Nur-Sultan when he was preparing to compete in the tournament, he injured his lower back. Despite all his efforts, he failed to be fit for the Championships.
"That is the worst moment of my career. I wanted to wrestle at the World Championships," he recalled. Then COVID-19 hit, derailing his plans to qualify for the Games in 2020.
Despite all the hardships, he kept himself motivated with the goal of going to the Olympics and remembering all the Iranian legends who had done it before. The two brothers had set up gym at their home in Shiraz. The two would even wrestle each other in a six-minute bout.
"We have never competed officially but we practice all the time," he said. "My brother always beats me. He is better than me but I keep on going after him."
Geraei now wants the friendly banter to turn into real-time motivation in Tokyo. It's not like the two brothers have not won medals at the same Games. In 2018, while Mohammadali won the gold medal at the 77kg category, the younger brother claimed the bronze medal at the 67kg weight category in Jakarta, Indonesia, Geraei went to claim the bronze medal.
While it was a special moment, Gereai thinks the best is yet to come.
"The best moment will be in Tokyo. Just wait"