Takhti, the youngest child of an Iranian family was born in Khaniabad neighborhood of south Tehran. on August 27, 1930. At the age of 15, he entered Poulad Club in Southern Tehran and was trained in wrestling. He soon left Tehran to become a manual laborer in the oil-rich city of Masjed Soleiman. When he was called up for military service, his potential in wrestling was discovered and he began to train seriously soon after he was recruited as an Iran Railways employee in 1948.
Takhti won his first Iranian championship in 1950, and on his first trip abroad in 1951, he won a silver medal at the world freestyle championships in Helsinki – the first international medal ever gained by an Iranian wrestler. One year later, he won another silver medal, again in Helsinki, this time in the 1952 Summer Olympic Games.
The subsequent highlights of his career were the gold medal in the 1956 Summer Olympic Games in Melbourne, a gold in the world championships in 1959 (Tehran), another silver in the 1960 Summer Olympic Games in Rome and a silver in the 1961 World Championships in Yokohama. His Olympics career finished with one gold medal & two silver medals. He did however finish fourth in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as well.
Takhti started as a middleweight wrestler in the 79 kg and 87 kg categories, as he was getting heavier, he decided to move up to the next weight, 97 kg, for the 1964 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. He was unable to win a medal and he finished in 4th place.
Character on the wrestling mat
Takhti tended to act fairly when competing against rivals during his career, something which originated from traditional values of Zurkhaneh, a kind of heroic behaviour that epitomizes chivalrous qualities known as Javanmardi.
For instance, he once had a match with Russian wrestler Alexander Medved who had an injured right knee. When Takhti found out that Medved was injured, he avoided touching the injured leg and tried to attack the other leg instead. He lost the match, but showed that he valued honorable behavior more than reaching victory.
Another example of his character comes from a match in Moscow. After defeating the then-world champion Anatoli Albul, Takhti saw the sorrow on the face of Albul’s mother. Takhti went to her and said, “I’m sorry about the result, but your son is a great wrestler.” She smiled and kissed him.
Social and political activisms
Takhti was known for his anti-regime views. He was a pro-Mossadegh activist and member of Second National Front and his death sparked a number of anti-Shah demonstrations.
In 1962, a terrible earthquake occurred in Bou’in-Zahra in western Iran, killing over 12,000. Takhti was deeply touched by the suffering. Already one of Iran’s biggest stars, he began to walk one of the main avenues of Tehran, asking for assistance for the victims. He inspired other champions to follow in his footsteps, and thousands gave to alleviate the suffering.
Death and legacy
Takhti was found dead in his hotel room on January 7, 1968. The Iranian government officially proclaimed his death a suicide. However, some claim that he was murdered because of his political activities against the Pahlavi regime, accusing SAVAK, the Iranian intelligence agency at that time. Because he was a national hero his funeral, organized by Hossein Towfigh, editor in chief of the late Towfigh magazine, drew hundreds of thousands of mourners. Towfigh magazine issued a special edition of their popular weekly magazine where they caricatured Takhti with angel wings flying high above the throngs of Iranian mourners at his own funeral with a caption that read “Don’t cry for me, cry for your own plight.” Towfigh magazine was shut down by the Shah for several months after printing this cartoon. He is buried at Ebn-e Babooyeh cemetery in Southern part of Tehran, near Shahr-e Ray, where he is commemorated every year by his fans.
After the 1979 political upheaval in Iran, many of the Savak officials, including its chief torturer Bahman Naderipour commonly known by his masked name Mr. Tehrani, were put on trial by the new regime. In an open court hearing published in the then-open newspapers (Keyhaan and Ettela’at were the two most popular outlets reporting the court hearings at the time), Tehrani publicly confessed in the court that Takhti was arrested due to his open support of and collaboration with ‘Nehzat Azadi’ (Freedom Movement), a moderate anti-government movement lead by Mr. Bazargan and Ayatollah Taleghani during the Shah’s rule
Takhti was survived by his wife and son, Babak Takhti, an author and translator. The movie Takhti, begun by Ali Hatami and finished by Behrooz Afkhami, examined some of the theories about Takhti’s death.
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