Sajjad Anoushirivani has been elected as President of the Iranian Weightlifting Federation ©Getty Images

Two Olympic champions and a world champion will work alongside the London 2012 silver medallist Sajjad Anoushirivani in trying to restore Iran's status as one of the top achievers in world weightlifting.

Anoushirivani, who had been appointed in an interim role by Iran's Sports Ministry in August, was elected unopposed as President of the Iranian Weightlifting Federation (IRIWF) at the Olympic Academy in Tehran.

His only rival, Ayub Behtaj, failed to attend the electoral assembly and his candidacy was withdrawn.

Anoushirivani will have Behdad Salimi as vice-president, and Hossein Rezazadeh and Koroush Bagheri on his Board.

Rezazadeh was Olympic super-heavyweight champion in 2000 and 2004, and also won four world titles in an unbeaten run covering six years. 

Salimi won two super-heavyweight world titles plus gold at London 2012, and Anoushirivani was a silver medallist behind Salimi in London and at the previous year's International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships in Paris.

Bagheri was the 94 kilograms world champion in 2001.

No other national federation has such a stellar line-up of 21st-century medallists on its Board.

All four men are in their 30s and 40s and the new regime was welcomed by Iran's media and its Sports Ministry, which is hoping to see a return to the glory days after years of underachievement in Iranian weightlifting.

Behdad Salimi will be vice-president of the organisation ©Getty Images
Behdad Salimi will be vice-president of the organisation ©Getty Images

Anoushirivani said he had found weightlifting "in ruins", financially and in terms of facilities, when he became interim head after the retirement of former President Ali Moradi.

He aims to completely rebuild the sport from grassroots level in the regions - 100 sets of new equipment have already been sent out across the country - to gaining seats on international bodies.

He cited disunity among provincial federations as a problem and toured the regions to see for himself the inadequacy of their training facilities and equipment.

"We are trying to move the wheels forward and put weightlifting on the track of development and progress," he said.

He expects to announce a decision on appointing a national head coach by the end of the week.

Anoushirivani sits on the Asian Weightlifting Federation Executive Board and Salimi is secretary of its Technical Committee, but the 39-year-old President is hoping Iran will also be represented at the IWF in future.

For the first time, the IRIWF will put a strong emphasis on developing female athletes, who until 2018 were forbidden by the Islamic Government from taking part in what had been a "men only" sport in Iran.

Iranian women competed in international weightlifting for the first time less than three years ago.

There was a significant moment at the Asian Championships in Bahrain in October when Seyyedeh Elham Hosseini won the 81kg class to become Iran's first female continental champion - and all three of Anoushirivani, Salimi and Rezazadeh were there to see her do it.

"We have a good plan for women's weightlifting and it's very important for us to take part in the Olympic Games for the first time (for women), and to win a medal," Anoushirivani said. 

Hosseini attended yesterday's elections as an athlete representative, along with Poupek Basami, the first Iranian woman to lift at the Asian and World Championships, and fellow international lifter Forough Younesi.

Zahra Pouramin Moghadam was elected to the IRIWF board in the role of "women's expert".

Seyyedeh Elham Hosseini celebrates on the podium at the Asian Championships, alongside, from left, Behdad Salimi, Hossein Rezazadeh and Sajjad Anoushirivani ©ITG
Seyyedeh Elham Hosseini celebrates on the podium at the Asian Championships, alongside, from left, Behdad Salimi, Hossein Rezazadeh and Sajjad Anoushirivani ©ITG

Iran is hosting a women-only invitational competition in Kish this weekend to celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year, and Russia is among the nine nations sending a team.

The new regime at the IRIWF faces an immediate challenge in securing approval to send a team to the IWF World Youth Championships in Albania starting on March 25.

Iran has entered 20 athletes, eight of them female, but because of its poor relationship with Albania, the Iranian Foreign Ministry has not signed off on the journey.

Hadi Panzwan, the national youth team coach, told local media: "They were supposed to announce the result last Saturday but the fact that they didn't say anything probably means a negative answer.

"We have a very good team that could be among the best in the Championships, but these things happen in sport."