Catherine presents a gold medal to Great Britain’s Aled Davies after he won the F42-class discus event during the London 2012 Paralympic Games just before she was snubbed by Iranian athlete Mehrdad Karam Zadeh who won the silver medal. (AFP)
Sept. 3: An Iranian athlete refused to shake the Duchess of Cambridge’s hand after she presented him with a silver medal in the Olympic Stadium last night for “cultural reasons”, it has emerged.
Discus thrower Mehrdad Karam Zadeh finished second behind Briton Aled Davies in the F42-class discus yesterday morning, and received his medal from the duchess in the main stadium last night.
The duchess was introduced to a huge cheer from a capacity crowd, but when she presented Zadeh with his medal it was noticeable that the 40 year-old athlete failed to shake her hand.
Bronze medallist Lezheng Wang and Davies both shook her hand after receiving their medals, with the Welshman exchanging words with the duchess, who has been a regular spectator at the Paralympics.
The Iranian delegation in London were unavailable for comment when contacted this morning, but they have told Games organisers that Zadeh’s actions were not politically motivated.
According to sources the Iranian’s actions were based on gender, with cultural convention preventing a man from shaking the hand of a woman.
The Iranians have said that had the medal been presented by a man Zadeh would have shaken his hand. Similarly, had the duchess presented the medal to a female Iranian athlete they would not have hesitated to shake hands.
The ceremony was the first at which the Duchess of Cambridge presented medals. It was a “happy coincidence” that the first recipient was British, her spokesman said.
A spokesman for St James’s Palace said the duchess was aware that there would be no handshake, and considered it an honour to present the medals. “Many male athletes from Islamic countries do not shake hands in public with women they are not related for cultural and religious reasons. The duchess was informed in advance and was happy to accept his wishes. She considered it an honour to present the medals.”
Tensions between Britain and Iran have been running high, with the UK withdrawing diplomats from Tehran in 2011.
In 2007 relations reached a nadir when the Iranian Revolutionary Guard captured 15 Royal Navy personnel off the Iran-Iraq coast and held them for 13 days.
The Islamic Republic has found itself on the defensive in the past week on its home territory as it hosted the 120-state Non-Aligned Movement conference.
Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary general, denounced the regime for its persistent threats to destroy Israel and Holocaust denial, and called on Ayatollahs to co-operate fully with the UN over its nuclear programme.
Yesterday the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called on the international community to get tougher against Iran, saying that without a “clear red line”, Tehran will not halt its nuclear programme.
“Until Iran sees this clear red line and this determination, it will not stop its advancement of the Iranian nuclear programme. Iran must not have a nuclear weapon,” he declared.
Davies, 21, wears a brace on his right leg after he was born with a condition which means that it does not function properly.
He could barely control his emotion as he turned to the crowd and held his hands aloft in delight.
He had the added bonus of becoming the first athlete to receive a gold medal from the Duchess of Cambridge.
After his win Davies said: “I am probably the happiest guy on the planet right now. It was a tough competition. But I dug deep. Four years of hard work for this — it’s nice to give something back to everyone. This crowd is incredible.”
He added: “Everyone was in tears at the end — it made me cry. They’ve had to put up with all my mood swings so it’s great to give something back.”