Iranian Jewish Culure
Janet Kohan-Sedegh

Janet Kohan-Sedegh

Athlete, Champion

Janet Kohan-Sedegh was born in 1945 C.E., the month of Ordibehesht 1324 of the Persian calendar, in a religious Jewish family of Tehran. She was the third child of Ebrahim Kohan-Sedegh and lady Akhtar Moradpour – Kohan-Sedegh.

Janet completed her elementary studies at the Giv Elementary School, and her high school studies at the Anoshirvan Dadgar and Homayoon High Schools. She then received her Bachelor’s Degree from Tehran University in Physical Education.

Janet Kohan-Sedegh began her serious sport activities at the age of 13, when she entered high school. By the time she completed her education, she had already established her name as one of the outstanding faces in the history of Iranian Women’s Track and Field sports. She was considered the fastest Iranian female runner, as well as the lightest speed runner in the world.

She first shone in the field when with 156 centimeters height and weighing a mere 40 kilograms, she set a new national record in the 100-meter women’s run, a feat that made her the first record-holder female runner of the 1960’s. Moreover, in the selection games of the Asian Olympics of 1966, she set a 12.5 seconds record in the 100-meter run, earning a remarkable achievement in the history of Iranian sports.

With relentless efforts, a firm belief in success, and a passion for pioneering, Janet Kohan-Sedegh managed to open the way to greater victories for her homeland of Iran, a country which she sincerely loved. Janet Kohan-Sedegh’s earliest success came in 1949, at the age of 4, when in a children’s relay-running game held at the Anoshirvan Dadgar High School, she was named among the top four runners of the event. A year later, she set an 8.7-second record which earned her the second place among the educational establishments of Tehran. This victory in particular motivated her future success, besides that about that time, Ms. Sadri, her physical education trainer, had recognized the child’s gifts and enthusiasm in sports, paid special attention to her education, and encouraged her at every opportunity to participate in competitions and training camps. Later on, such trainers as Mr. Izad-Panah, Ms. Sharif-Mohammadi, and Ms. Mehr-Nouri, besides her family’s warm support, gave even more reasons to achieve greater success in her field.

In 1962, the 17-year old Janet Kohan-Sedegh competed in the inter-school games as a member of the adults’ team. She set an 11-second record in the 80-meter run, a feat that earned her the first place. That same year, she participated in the national championships for the educational establishments, in which she placed fourth. In the fall of 1962, the month of Mehr 1341 of the Persian calendar, she participated in the sports clubs games on behalf of the Young and Adult Women’s Association, where she placed first by finishing the 80-meter run in 10.9 seconds. A month later, in 1963 C.E., the 4th of Aban 1341 of the Persian calendar, she completed the 100-meter in a remarkable 13.1 seconds, setting a new national record for young women by 0.1 second, thus, becoming the record-holding national champion in the 100-meter women’s run. As she would write, this victory remained her best memory on the field.

Yet, in 1964, she set a new record, this time under 13 seconds, rising to new heights and leaving her competition far behind.

Janet Kohan-Sedegh’s fame spread farther by the day. She was constantly invited to participate in various competitions between sport clubs of Tehran and other cities, which she completed with frequent success and new records, so far as in 1963, the national weekly Kayhan Sports named her the Girl of the Year. Finally, on 26th of October 1965, the 4th of Aban 1344, she appeared on the track before a 35,000 audience, and her face fresh as a flower, her eyes glimmering with joy, and amid the cheers and awe of the large crowd, she completed the 100-meter in a record 12.5 seconds. Thereafter, the path opened before her to run in other Asian countries.

Janet Kohan-Sedegh said in an interview that “Janet never stays at one place.” Despite her petite figure — she was 156 centimeters tall, and weighed a mere 40 kilograms — she had a grand soul, generous attributes and humane qualities. She had a strong and decisive personality, aimed high, loved friends, and was utmost benevolent. She was also restless, passionate, sincere, kind, and in love with home and family.

As a child, she told her family, “I want the world to know me.”


Spring was slowly yielding to the summertime. The school year was coming to an end and university exams were about to wrap things up for the season. At 2:00 PM on Tuesday June the 1st, 1972, the 11th of Khordad 1351, the Iran Radio announced that in the earlier hours of the day, as a result of an automobile accident at the Parkway location, the driver Ms. Simin Shafiei, a member of the national basketball team and the Paas sports club, and Janet Kohan-Sedegh, the fastest running Iranian woman who sat in the passenger seat, had both died within seconds of the impact.

The following day, the Iranian capital’s greatest newspapers published the tragic news in large headlines and more detail. Accordingly, two young female champions, Simin Shafiei and Janet Kohan-Sedegh, besides two other female trainers, were driving from The Melli “National” University to the central Tehran, when at the Parkway location, they came face to face with a commercial passenger car of the Shemiran line. The harsh impact made the women athletes’ automobile turn over, and the passengers were trapped inside the crushed body of the car. By the help of police and fire-fighting agents, the wounded were immediately transferred to a hospital. However, given the severity of the wounds inflicted by the impact, the two front-seat passengers, Simin Shafiei and Janet Kohan-Sedegh could not survive the accident.

Janet Kohan-Sedegh’s funeral service was attended by numerous figures of the sports, colleagues, trainers, academic professors, academic students, members of the Tehran (and Iran) Jewish Association, members of the Iranian Jewish Women’s Organization, many of her students, and other people from across the society. She was buried during a majestic ceremony, and numerous statements were made by various prominent figures and organizations.

Some believe that Janet Kohan-Sedegh was a burning flame who shone on the dim horizon of the 100-meter run of Iran, and that by her sudden and untimely death, she left the sports community of our country in grief. She had spent her younger years fighting to place high in competitions, and on the way, she brought about a miracle that raised people’s awe and admiration. Alas, the candle of her life did not last long, and she left us all too soon. The tragic dimensions of her death were so unbearably heavy to his family that her father fell ill in bed within a month, and passed away 10 months later.

Following her death, the Track and Field Federation of Iran, believing that Janet Kohan-Sedegh’s memory should shine forever for other champions in her field, established an annual cup in her name. In the first of these competitions, the second lane which she had run in her last game was covered in flowers. The University of Tehran also organized annual Track and Field competitions in her name, which continued at the university until the Islamic Revolution. Furthermore, the Iranian Jewish Women’s Organization, with the support of the Tehran Jewish Association, established an Iranian Jewish sports hall named after Janet Kohan-Sedegh, the champion of the speed run and the record-holder of Iranian women’s 100-meter, at the cultural and athletic Sarabandi complex in the Yousef-Abad district of Tehran.

Janet Kohan-Sedegh was a stylish and glorious athlete. She was well-known for her strong body and spirit. Amid all her exceptional spiritual attributes, she was full of kindness and humanity, and a symbol of true athletes. On occasion, she secretly helped out families in need. Moreover, without any prejudice and at every opportunity, she demonstrated the most beautiful human qualities before her compatriots. At any competition that she attended, everyone called out her name and cheered her on in unison, because right then they knew that Janet was running for Iran and the Iranian pride. Alas, on that ominous day of June the 1st, 1972, the month of Iyyar 5732 of the Hebrew calendar, to everyone’s shock and disbelief, at the young age of 27, long before her time was due, Janet Kohan-Sedegh suddenly stopped running.

Janet Kohan-Sedegh (Front Center) and Family. Tehran, 1956 C.E.


Janet Kohan-Sedegh and Her Sisters. From Left: Sima, Rosa, Janet and Flora. Tehran, 1963.

Janet Kohan-Sedegh (1945-1972)

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