Iranian taekwondo player Kimia Alizadeh could be forced to retire from the sport after picking up an injury that ruled her out of competing at the 2018 Asian Games here, according to her coach Mahroo Komrani.
Alizadeh, who had been selected to become the first woman to carry Iran’s flag at the Opening Ceremony of the Games before being replaced by shooter Elaheh Ahmadi, suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury during training for the second time in 13 months.
Komrani fears she will now likely announce retirement from the sport forever.
"For someone who has undergone surgery several times, it is very difficult to return to the sport once again," she was reported as saying by the Tehran Times.
"Kimia made history for Iran in the Olympic Games but our girls have the potential to make a splash in the Asian Games in Indonesia."
Alizadeh made history by becoming the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal when she claimed bronze in the under-57 kilograms category at Rio 2016.
The Iranian then stepped up to the under-63kg class for last year's World Taekwondo Championships in Muju in South Korea.
She won a silver medal, losing out in the final to Ivory Coast's Ruth Gbagbi.
It followed Alizadeh's performance at the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing in 2014 when she won a gold medal at under-63kg.
Her career suffered a setback in July 2017, when she suffered an ACL injury, and the Asian Games was supposed to be her comeback.
Ahmadi, Alizadeh’s replacement as Iran’s flagbearer, is a four-time Asian Games medallist having won three medals - two silvers and a bronze - at Guangzhou 2010 and a silver at Incheon 2014.
Ahmadi had been among the original shortlist of candidates to carry the flag drawn up by the National Olympic Committee of the Islamic Republic of Iran along with Alizadeh and discus thrower Ehsan Haddadi, the Olympic silver medallist at London 2012 and three-time Asian Games champion.
The Opening Ceremony of the Asian Games is due to take place tomorrow at Jakarta's Gelora Bung Karno Stadium.
The event is scheduled to run until September 2.