Iran is set to send a female weightlifter to Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

There was no such thing as women's weightlifting in Iran until 2018 but already there is a landmark achievement to celebrate - three years sooner than expected.

All the plans put in place after an historic day in Ahvaz just over three years ago, when an eight-year-old girl made global headlines by being the first female to lift a barbell in public in Iran, were made with the Paris 2024 Olympic Games as the ultimate target.

Now, because of Samoa's COVID-19-related decision not to send home-based athletes to Japan, an Iranian woman will compete in the women's super-heavyweights at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Games.

The Samoan Iuniarra Sipaia, eighth on the ranking list, has dropped out and the Iran Weightlifting Federation (IRIWF) has been told that Parisa Jahanfekrian has been reallocated Sipaia's place.

It means that the final session of women's weightlifting in Tokyo on August 2 will now feature the first transgender athlete in Olympic history, New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard, and the first Iranian woman to compete on the sport's biggest stage since Iran's strict Islamic rulers lifted the "men only" state law that covered the sport.

Jahanfekrian will weigh 40-50 kilograms less than some of her rivals as she is an 87kg lifter who is eligible for the heavier weight class.

She has competed in international events only four times in her life, and only once as a super-heavyweight, which will make her the least-experienced athlete on the platform in Tokyo.

An eight-year-old girl made history in 2018 by becoming the first female to lift a barbell in public in Iran ©Brian Oliver
An eight-year-old girl made history in 2018 by becoming the first female to lift a barbell in public in Iran ©Brian Oliver

Jahanfekrian, 26, put in all her necessary Olympic qualifying performances in 2019 - phase one at the Asian Championships in the week before the deadline in April, phase two at the IWF World Championships, where she finished 21st at 87kg, and phase three at the sixth Qatar Cup and the Naim Suleymanoglu tournament in Turkey, her only effort in the heaviest weight category.

She has totalled more than 200kg only once, and has not competed for 18 months.

While Jahanfekrian will not be a medal contender, with a personal best that is about 80kg below what will be needed, her presence will give a further boost to Iran's female weightlifting development programme.

The women's national team, based like the men at Azadi Stadium in Tehran, has two female coaches but is overseen by an experienced male adviser, Akbar Khorshidi.

Since the eight-year-old, Aysan Adib, had made headlines in March 2018 as a demonstration lifter at a men's international competition, the Fajr Cup, the women's programme has developed at pace.

Ali Moradi, President of the IRIWF, had support from the nation's Sports Ministry and just over a year later Iranian women competed for the first time when a team of seven, including Jahanfekrian, lifted at the Asian Championships in China.

In May this year Iran won its first major medal when 16-year-old Yekta Jamali finished third in the 87kg class at the IWF Junior World Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan - with a bigger total than Jahanfekrian has ever made.

We may well see Jamali, and other Iranian women, at Paris 2024 - provided weightlifting is still on the Olympic programme.