Yekta Jamali, third left, "disappeared" at the IWF Junior World Championships in Crete ©ITG

The 17-year-old weightlifter Yekta Jamali "disappeared" while her Iran team-mate was breaking a world record and is believed to be planning a new life in another country.

Jamali is the most successful athlete in the brief history of women’s weightlifting in Iran.

She was not present on the final day of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) Junior World Championships in Crete, at which Iran’s Alireza Yousefi set a junior world record on the way to victory in the super-heavyweights.

That was on Tuesday (May 10), since when Jamali appears to have gone into hiding.

Officials at Iran’s national weightlifting federation (IRIWF) have spoken with Jamali’s family but have not learned of her whereabouts.

"I don’t know what happened," Zahra Pouramin, vice-president of the IRIWF, told the IRNA news agency.

She said Ali Moradi, the IRIWF president who oversaw the introduction of women’s weightlifting to Iran’s sporting landscape in 2018, had remained in Heraklion, the host city, in an attempt to find her.

Moradi did not wish to comment when insidethegames contacted him today.

News outlets in Iran reported that Jamali had "left the team camp without informing anyone" while Yousefi was competing.

"Many expect that she, like many before her, has taken the opportunity to leave Iran," said the Iranwire website.

A handball player, a rower and two female footballers have absconded from Iran’s teams in recent months for political reasons and forced wearing of the hijab, Iranwire reported.

On social media, friends of Jamali suggested that she had been unhappy with "oppressive treatment" from her federation, and she is said to have been irked by her low earnings.

Jamali's disappearance is big news on Iranian TV ©ITG
Jamali's disappearance is big news on Iranian TV ©ITG

Weightlifting is a popular sport in Iran and its top male lifters can earn huge sums.

Until 2018, Iran’s Islamic regime had forbidden females from taking part in weightlifting.

Only recently a prominent actor, who appears on Iran’s state-run television channel, made unfounded - some would say ludicrous - comments about the effects of weightlifting on women, whose main duty, he said, was motherhood.

He claimed that lifting heavy weights could damage women’s breasts and ovaries.

Another member of Iran’s women’s team, Parisa Jahanfekrian, was said to be distraught last year when she was not allowed to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games by sports medical authorities, having undergone hand surgery.

She had agreed to the operation after being told she had no chance of qualifying for Tokyo, only to find out after surgery that she had earned a place, reports said.

About 20 Iranian athletes in a range of sports have emigrated in the past three years after refusing to fly home from international competitions, the Iranian media said.

Jamali became Iran’s first female world medallist last year, winning bronze at the IWF Junior World Championships in Uzbekistan.

In the past year she has competed at three World Championships, two juniors (up to age 20) and one youths (up to 17) and she won medals at all three.

In Crete she was a silver medallist in the snatch at 87 kilograms, and finished fourth overall.

Pyrros Dimas, President of the Greek Weightlifting Federation, said nobody from the Greek police or Sports Ministry had any news about Jamali.

"She has disappeared," he said.