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Bet on the Net

Like any aspiring Olympian, Ahad Sarand is fighting for the opportunity to represent his country. He has the skill set, and the determination and grit, and in fact represented his birth country of Iran in the 1990 World Championship Games. An American citizen since 2006, Sarand is now making a comeback and wants to honor [...]
Aaron Wetli

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Like any aspiring Olympian, Ahad Sarand is fighting for the opportunity to represent his country. He has the skill set, and the determination and grit, and in fact represented his birth country of Iran in the 1990 World Championship Games. An American citizen since 2006, Sarand is now making a comeback and wants to honor The United States in the 2020 Paralympic Games. This is the story of the wheelchair-using table tennis star, and his journey across the globe.

The Beginning

Born in Tabriz, Iran (a city of 1.5 million), Sarand was a typically-developed two year old, until he contracted polio. As a result, Sarand was paralyzed from the waist down. In an effort to help their son regain his health, Sarand’s parents sold all of their possessions, including their home, to help pay for medical treatment.

The money lasted long enough to correct Sarand’s right leg and to reverse the paralysis, but ultimately there wasn’t enough money to correct his left leg. As a result, his left leg is three inches shorter than his right leg
and Sarand walks with a pronounced and labored gait.

“In Iran, medical coverage is not like it is America. In America, both of my legs would have been fixed,” Sarand laments.

At school, Sarand was bullied and berated, but found solace in table tennis. He was a quick study and soon joined his middle school team. A coach for athletes with disabilities recognized Sarand’s abilities and recruited him to compete in para athletics. Sarand never looked back.

A Distant Dream

After years of honing his skills, Sarand became the number one Iranian national player in his division, which is for athletes who walk but have to use wheelchairs to travel long distances. The culmination of this hard work was representing his home country in the 1990 World Championships in the Netherlands.

After the Netherlands World Champion-ships, Sarand and his wife Tahereh decided to focus on immigrating to the United States, to make a better life for themselves and the family they wanted to start. This process was tiresome, long and daunting and would ultimately take 16 years to accomplish.

“This process was difficult. After table tennis, I worked for the Iranian Social Security office and focused a lot of my free time on the immigration processes,” says Sarand. Finally, in 1996, Sarand received the news that he had obtained a green card. The Sarand family was coming to America.

A New Chapter

“I arrived in America with my wife, two suitcases and a sick two year old. We only had $100 and because of a customs error, my family and I had to stay at JFK airport for more than 24 hours,” recalls Sarand with a hint of laughter.

With assistance from his brother-in-law, Sarand and his family settled into life in northern Franklin County. Sarand worked the graveyard shift (because it paid $1.50 more than the day shift) returning shopping carts at the Meijer in Orange Township. With his mobility impairment, Sarand faced additional barriers returning carts in the snow, heat, and rain. After his shifts ended, he would wash dishes at any restaurant or hotel that would have him.

After eighteen months of returning carts and honing his English, Sarand climbed the ladder at Meijer and started working registers and doing other jobs inside. Other challenges made the family’s transition to their new American life rockier still. Sarand fought physical pain, and his wife became unable to work outside the home after an injury.

They persisted, and as the years went by, America began to feel more like home. They added a second child, Yashar, to the mix. The growing family became part of their community, the children were thriving at Worthington schools, and Sarand was able to quit Meijer when he was hired in translation services and database building at Chemical Abstract Services, close to the Old North district.

In 2006, the Sarand family finally became citizens.

“The events of September 11th made the citizenship process take a little longer, but I understood,” says Sarand. Finally, they were living the American dream through pure determination, hard work and dedication—the culmination of which may be the oldest child, Peiman, recently graduating from The Ohio State University with a degree in Special Education.

Return to Glory

Sarand never quit playing table tennis, and with the encouragement of his family, began to train for his first competitive matches since 1990. The goal is the same—competing at a high level and representing his country with dignity and pride—but now the home country is different. This time around, Sarand wants to represent the Red, White, and Blue.

In a nutshell, qualifying for the Paralympic games is complicated process that is expensive and time consuming. On top of training for two hours a day, four days a week, and the money it takes to travel the globe for qualifying events, aspiring Paralympians have a tiered system of accumulating needed points for the right to represent their country.

In Costa Rica in 2017, Sarand won the bronze medal, only two points shy of a silver. He does not have the continued resources or time to globe trot to accumulate all of the points necessary to represent America. However, he does have a plan—bypassing all of the travel, time, and expenses by winning the gold at the Parapan Games in Peru in 2019. If Sarand can do this, he will secure an automatic bid to the 2020 Paralympic games in Tokyo.

Sarand loves America, has worked hard to make a successful life for his family and has overcome the stigma of having a disability, all while starting from scratch in a new country. There aren’t many better examples of what it means to be an American success story than Ahad Sarand and his family. In fact, there aren’t many better examples of what it means to be American.

To help Sarand hire a coach, and get to the 2019 Parapan Games in Peru, you can donate to his Go Fund Me: gofundme.com/2020tokyoparalympics.

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Community

Clintonville shop earns “America’s Best” award

614now Staff

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Clintonville's Johnny Velo Bikes has been named one of the top bike shops in the nation according to an industry source.

Johnny Velo Bikes has received an America’s Best Bike Shop award from the National Bike Dealers Association (NBDA). The shop is among only six in Ohio to earn the distinction.

“It's an honor to be recognized as one of the best bike shops out of more 4,000 shops in the country," owner John Robinson said in a statement. "We've only been in business for two years, but we've worked very hard to create a professional and friendly atmosphere for our customers."

The NBDA's America's Best Bike Shops program identifies and rewards bicycle stores in North America against the highest performance standards in the industry. The awards are issued based on an application and secret shopper process, with shops scored on layout and design, staff and management, training, marketing, and community involvement.

Contact John Robinson at 614-333-0012 or [email protected] for all your bike-related needs. For details on the shop, visit www.johnyyvelobikes.com.

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Arts & Culture

Maker’s Space: Kato Mitchell

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Following an initial disastrous experience with attempting to refurbish a personal pair of sneakers with acrylic paint years ago, a friend noticed Mitchell’s persistence, aiding him to perfect his craft. Though he began with primarily focusing on restoring his friends’ worn-down sneakers, Mitchell’s business, Work The Custom, has expanded to designing apparel in any range.

Just months after being highlighted as cleat designer for Braxton Miller’s Charg1ng summer football camp in Dayton, Mitchell’s clientele has accrued some big names in the sports world, and he has no intention of stopping. (614) caught up with Mitchell to learn more about Work The Custom, and his hope for reconstructing apparel in Columbus and beyond.

(614): When did you decide to transition from football to design?
KM: I’ve always had a passion for drawing and art, [but] I just lost my vision when I took actual art classes and didn’t like what we were doing. After college, I didn’t get any NFL calls, [and] I was trying to figure out what else I would love to do every day, and fell back in love with art.

What was your leap from “this thing I do” to the thing to do? How do you promote your work? After I realized how many people wanted to show who they really are with art, and I was someone who could help do that, that was my ironing point. I promote my work through Instagram and Facebook for the most part, but I do go to sneaker events from time-to-time to pass out business cards.

Is this your primary gig, side gig or hobby? How did it come to be?
It’s my side gig for the moment, but trying to grow and learn to make it my full-time career. I had a pair of shoes that were beat up and didn’t want to buy more so I painted them, but one of my friends taught me the game and how to prosper from it.

What life changes do you feel have propelled your work? How have your customizations evolved? Playing football for a place like Ohio State and doing work for Buckeyes in the NFL and for the OSU football team has helped grow my work faster and further. My customs have evolved just by me growing up and seeing different things, learning different things, practicing everyday, and being able to adapt.

Do you have a specific audience that you want to appeal to?
I want my work to be for everyone. My work can range from baby shoes to youth high school players of all sports, to walls of homeowners and businesses, to shoes for pro athletes.

What ingredients come together to make Columbus a fertile ground for makers, designers and creatives? Columbus is a growing market and very friendly. It has new businesses starting every week and everyone is trying to help everyone else.

What’s your six-word creative story?

Work The Custom is coming fast!

To get in contact with Mitchell, or to see more designs, follow him on Instagram at @katowork19.

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Sports

Twitter Reacts: Bucks score #1 spot in first official playoff rankings

Mike Thomas

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The first official rankings for the 2019 College Football Playoff were announced yesterday, and the Buckeyes have landed at the top of the pile. The ranking marks the first time the Buckeyes have held the #1 spot since the inception of the playoff system.

Needless to say, social media is abuzz with reactions to this historic moment for Ryan Day's squad. Enjoy this roundup of reactions to the announcement from around Twitterverse, and Go Bucks!

https://twitter.com/11W/status/1191906549750489088
https://twitter.com/BarstoolOSU/status/1191906673960652800
https://twitter.com/lawschoollex/status/1191909159815524353
https://twitter.com/CaliBuckeyeGuy/status/1191906878181105664
https://twitter.com/ESPNCFB/status/1191906381999353856
https://twitter.com/ArrogantBuckeye/status/1191907918691622913
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