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Janet Kohan-Sedq: A Young Sportswoman Killed in the Prime of Her Life

December 6, 2019
Mahrokh Gholamhosseinpour
4 min read
Janet Kohan-Sedq
Janet Kohan-Sedq
Janet’s photo appears above the entrance of a sports club in her name in Yusefabad
Janet’s photo appears above the entrance of a sports club in her name in Yusefabad
Janet’s family in 1957
Janet’s family in 1957
Janet and her sisters. Right to left: Flora, Janet, Rosa, and Sima
Janet and her sisters. Right to left: Flora, Janet, Rosa, and Sima

Janet Kohan-Sedq was a young woman and an athlete who died at the peak of her professional life. Her intimately death saw the loss of a beautiful and delicate woman who was Iran’s hero of the hundred meters dash.

On the dark day of her death in June, 1972, the month of “Khordad” in Iran’s calendar, two famous Iranian sportswomen went together to the University of Tehran; when they returned home, under the trees of Pahlavi Street near the Parkway Crossroad, they were swallowed by darkness. The day was later called “Black Khordad” for its tragedy.

Simin Shafaqi, the great hope of Iranian basketball in the early 1970s, was driving the car. Sports writers were raving in the newspapers about Simin’s unique abilities and techniques. She was the captain of the national basketball team and a member of the Pas Sport club.

Janet was sitting next to Simin in the car. They were returning from the University of Tehran. On the way, their coaches Azar Larijani and Bita Dadaris also joined them in the car. The group drove in the early evening from the university to downtown – a bus from the Shemiran line deviated from its path and crashed into Simin’s car. The vehicle was completely flipped in the collision. Simin and Janet were rushed to the Zhandarmeri Clinic in Tehran’s Niavaran neighborhood; alas, they both lost their lives.

Janet Kohan-Sedq was the third child of a Jewish-Iranian family. Her father, Ebrahim Kohan-Sedq, was a widely-respected man in the community; her mother, according to 7Dorim website, was Akhtar Moradpur.

Janet finished her schooling at Anushiravan Dadgar High School, an old school belonging to Zoroastrians, on today’s Enqelab Street near Alborz High School and the American College of Tehran. She studied physical education at the University of Tehran.

Janet was no ordinary young woman. She first realized her talent for running in a relay race at school when still a child. Others also recognized her as a superior athlete. Janet continued her rapid athletic progress, with the support of her family; when she was just 12, she became a familiar name in varsity track and field races.

In 1960, aged 15, Janet competed in a 100-meter sprint and became third-best in Iran. In 1962 she won the 11-second record in the adults’ 80-meter dash. She competed in and won club competitions that same year.

Later 1962, aged 16, Janet broke records for the 100-meter sprint in Iran, besting the previous record by a tenth of a second. In 1963 she was named Girl of the Year by Keyhan newspaper for her successive record-breaking wins.

In 1964 Janet once again defeated her rivals and placed first in 100-meter running competitions around Iran.

In another race, in 1965 when Janet was 22 years old, she won a record of 12 minutes and five-tenths of a second in the 200-meter steeplechase before  a crowd of 30,000 people. The audience chanted her name in the stadium – Janet watched the adulation and blushed in gratitude at the enthusiasm of the crowds.

In 1966, Janet record a 12.5 second 100-meter record in the qualifying competitions for the Asian Olympics.

Janet was a passionate athlete – but she also trained young people to love sports and to excel in them at school.

Janet was a delicate woman, weighing 40 kilograms, with a sympathetic and benevolent disposition. Her trainees included schoolchildren in deprived parts of Iran; with these young people, she shared her knowledge and experience, declining to ask for any payment. She is said to have often tried to help the poor. Janet loved her parents, family and friends, and through she had a kind and friendly personality she also had a rebellious and ambitious spirit.

“I want to be known all over the world,” she would say. But the world deprived her of the chance to reach that peak.

All of Iran was in shock when national radio first broke the news of Janet’s fatal car accident, which also caused the untimely death of Simin Shafiqi.

Janet was buried when she was just 26 years old. Her father could not bear the pain; he became ill within a month, and died less than ten months after his daughter.

After Janet’s her death, in the first track and field event match held at the last stadium where Janet competed, the number 2 lane she had used was closed and entirely covered with flowers. The University of Tehran, where Janet had studied, founded an annual competition in her name. And Iran’s Track and Field Federation also held an annual race awarding the Janet Kohan-Sedq Cup – it continued until the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

In 2004, after years of forgetting and oblivion, the Iranian Jewish Women's Association, with the help of the Tehran Jewish Committee, revived Janet’s memory, races and the competitions held in her name before the Revolution, by inaugurating a Janet Kohan-Sedq sports hall in the Sarabandi Cultural and Sport Complex in Yusefabad.

Janet’s resting place is a simple grave in a corner of the Beheshtieh Cemetery in Tehran. The woman who lies there could have undoubtedly made Iran famous – had she been given the chance.



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