Mr Olympia 2022, the most prestigious bodybuilding contest, wrapped up in Las Vegas on December 18 after Iran’s Hadi Choopan was announced as the new champion.
The 35-year-old Choopan took the Mr Olympia title and earned $400,000 for his win, becoming the first Iranian competitor ever to take the top prize at this event.
His words after receiving the gold medal made him increasingly popular among Iranians.
“I hope this championship will reduce some of the sorrows of the people of Iran and that I have been able to be a good representative and soldier for the people of my country," he said, referring the brutal state crackdown on an ongoing wave of protests demanding more freedoms and women’s rights.
Choopan also dedicated his title “to the honorable women of Iran and the people of Iran living anywhere in the world.”
IranWire takes a look at the life of this exceptional champion known as "Iranian Wolf" who started working as a plasterer at the age of 10 and became a boxer at his teenage time before dedicating himself to bodybuilding.
Choopan was born on September 24, 1987, in Sepidan County near the southern city of Shiraz. He was 10 years old when he started working as a plasterer on construction sites with his older brother Hassan.
When Choopan reached the age of 13 it became obvious for Hassan that his brother really enjoyed bodybuilding. Hasan insisted that his young brother goes to the gym despite the financial efforts that this activity required.
The teenager also practiced boxing for a while, and the blows he received led to his partial loss of hearing. He later said he never looked at this problem as a weakness but accepted it as part of life.
He left boxing at the age of 18, and, with the support of his brother, became a professional bodybuilder. Three years later, at the age of 21, he was crowned champion of Fars Province and reached the third place in the national competition. At the time, he measured 1.68 meter and had a weight of 68 kilograms.
In 2011, he became a member of Iran’s national bodybuilding team for the first time. After that his weight progressively increased to reach 100 kilograms.
“A Persian wolf is an indomitable warrior”
With such a weight, few people expected him to succeed in international competitions. "The more they told me to quit, the more determined I became. I didn't have any sponsors, I sold my own car… to pay for my living and training," he said in 2019.
After he won the gold medal at the 2013 Men’s World Amateur Bodybuilding Championships in Morocco, the profession knew him by the nickname "Iranian Wolf". "No one gave me this nickname. In fact, I chose it for myself because I wanted to never be subject to any problem under any circumstances. In my opinion, an Iranian or Persian wolf is an indomitable warrior,” he has said in an interview.
Choopan is an independent, freedom lover with a rebellious character. He is said to have always refused lobbying or political activities such as joining electoral campaigns, despite attractive financial promises.
He is also famous for his sharp tongue. After reaching the third place at the 2021 Mr Olympia contest, a reporter asked him about his expectations from Iranian sports officials. "For me, officials are not different from this column behind you; officials are no one. I strive for the love of the people," he answered.
Two years earlier, he had told Tasnim news agency he was paying for his visa and trip costs, all by himself.