Alum Amin Nikfar Making Second Olympic Appearance
Follow Amin on Twitter
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Amin Nikfar achieved his goal of reaching the Olympics in 2008 in Beijing and competing for Iran in the shot put. But the experience created a desire to get back on the world's biggest stage.
"After the first Olympics I thought I was going to retire," said Nikfar. "But I kinda got the itch again and I started training again."
Nikfar, who competed at California from 2000-04, trained at Northern Arizona University under the direction of then throws coach Mo Saatara in preparation for Beijing. While in Flagstaff, he earned his master's degree in education and served as a volunteer coach for the Lumberjacks' track and field program.
"Without Mo Saatara, NAU and getting my master's degree in education, I would not have been an Olympian let alone a two-time Olympian," said Nikfar from Ann Arbor, where he has trained under current Michigan coach Saatara. "Berkeley set me up to do well. I think NAU pushed me over the edge with really getting dialed in and focused. I got away from both positive and negative distractions. NAU was absolutely instrumental in me becoming an Olympian."
Nikfar earned an Olympic "B" qualifying mark on June 26, 2008, winning the men's shot put at the Flagstaff Invitational held at Lumberjack Stadium with a personal-best throw of 65-4 (19.94m). The mark set a new Iranian record and earned him a spot on the Iranian team for which he qualifies based on his father's heritage.
"Last time I hit the mark a month before the games," said Nikfar. "I hit my qualification mark last July in Toronto. It definitely was a relief getting my qualification mark a year before the Olympics. I had more time to do more quality preparation rather than just chasing a mark."
He hopes to create new memories during his second Olympic appearance in London and improve his performance.
"The first memory of Beijing was wishing I would have done better," said Nikfar. "I trained pretty hard and throwing was going well. I got in there and tanked. It wasn't a good memory because I fouled out. Another memory, in the back of my mind, was knowing I was going to do it again and get better the next time because of all the valuable experience I gained."
Nikfar will use that experience on August 3 in the first of two finals contested on opening day of the athletics competition. The qualifying rounds start at 2 a.m. Arizona time with the finals at 12:30 p.m. Coverage can be seen online.
"It feels great," said Nikfar, who finished 21st at both the 2003 and 2004 NCAA Outdoor Championships. "The first time you are really happy and excited and everything is brand new. It is similar but now I have the experience to get better. I am not going into a meet I know nothing about. I am going into a meet I know a lot about. Experience is a huge factor in competing at the Olympic Games."
He hopes to leave London feeling good about his competition.
"The goal is to get out of the qualifying rounds," said Nikfar. "I do not think it is realistic to say I am going to get Top 8 but I think it is to get out of qualifying and make the Top 12."
Nikfar is training in Michigan until Saturday before flying to London. He will miss the Opening Ceremonies Friday night but it will be in the best interest of his performance.
"I did want to get out there but at the same time it is not good for training," said Nikfar. "It is a lot time, walking and sitting around. It is a beautiful production but it is not an ideal situation for training a week out from competition."
Nikfar is a native of Santa Clara, Calif., and a product of Wilcox High School.
He one of four athletes with NAU connections including three alumni and one current student-athlete. Lopez Lomong, '11 BS, will represent the USA in the 5000m on August 8. David McNeill, '10 BS, will represent Australia in the same race. Current NAU student athlete Diego Estrada will represent Mexico in the 10,000m on August 4. The Lumberjacks have been represented in every summer Olympics dating back to 1984.