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Two-time Olympian and NAU grad prepares for shot put competition

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LONDON – Standing 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds, Iranian shot-putter Amin Nikfar resembles anything but his bestowed nickname “Tiny.” His larger-than-life charisma, however, matches every inch of his burly physique.

“It’s just the most ironic of nicknames they could find,” said Nikfar, who competed at California from 2000-2004 and received his master’s degree in education at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Nikfar made the move to Arizona to prepare for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

“Moving to Flagstaff was imperative to my shot-putting success,” Nikfar said. “It allowed me to get away from both the positive and negative distractions that I had at home in the Bay Area.”

Nikfar trained under the direction of throws coach Mo Saatara, who is now coaching at Michigan, and credits him for much of his Olympic success.

“He has stuck with me through a lot of adversity as well as the good times,” he said, “and that is a true sign of a great coach.”

While in Flagstaff, Nikfar served as a volunteer coach for the Lumberjacks’ track and field team. He competed in the Flagstaff Invitation held at Lumberjack Stadium and not only achieved a personal best of 65-4 but also set an Iranian record that earned a spot on that country’s Olympic team, for which he qualifies because of his father’s heritage.

“Setting a new Iranian record at the Flagstaff Invitational was incredible,” Nikfar said. “I really got a kick out of hitting the Olympic standard on my own turf. It was nice to be able to get a good result in the town, and at the university (NAU) that had been so supportive.”

As an Iranian record holder and 2004 Asian Indoor Track & Field champion, Nikfar is making his second appearance in the Olympics.

He fouled out in his debut but used it as an opportunity for growth.

“The first time in Beijing was a very good experience and I learned a lot from it, but I didn’t have the performance I wanted,” Nikfar said.

With competition opening Friday, Nikfar is looking for redemption but remains modest in his expectations.

“I would be very happy if I made the top 12. I don’t think it’s realistic for me to say that I can get into the top eight,” said Nikfar. “The good training sessions and good results are easy to be positive about.

“It’s sticking through the poor results, injury and hard times that are the real story.”

Leading up to the games, Nikfar trained in Michigan with Saatara.

Regardless of the outcome, Nikfar has already hit his mark, a repeat performance shot-putting on the world’s biggest stage.

“I am incredibly grateful to everybody who has been a part of my now-second Olympic journey,” Nikfar said. “My friends my family, UC Berkeley, NAU, University of Michigan – I am just incredibly grateful, it’s hard to put into words.”