Belonging to an empowering generation of women’s ice hockey stars from Iran, Maral Rasekhi is working towards heralding a new era built on growing the game and establishing sustainability. A talented athlete having excelled in multiple sports, Rasekhi is finding her niche on the ice, recently winning the Union Cup.
Originally, inline hockey represented Rasekhi’s first experience in the game, dating back to 2006. Among the most celebrated members of Iran’s women’s inline hockey team, the Asian Roller Skating Championship provided consecutive podium finishes. Rasekhi and her Iranian teammates enjoyed bronze medals at the 2016 event in Lishui, China followed by Namwon, South Korea 2018.
Having graced the ice in 2018, Rasekhi skated for club teams in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Canada. Akin to Rasekhi, Azamossadat Sanaei, the captain of the Iranian national women’s ice hockey team also possessed experienced in the inline game. Worth noting, their native Iran became an associate member of the IIHF in 2019 with 103 registered female skaters. A new ice rink one year later spurred an encouraging step forward for their national ice hockey teams. In addition, Iran’s women captured the silver medal at the 2023 IIHF Asia and Oceania Championship.
With a preference towards cold weather sports, Rasekhi’s athletic background includes competition in speed skating and snowboarding, having won the Iran Freestyle Snowboard title. Naturally gravitating towards hockey, the most appealing factor involved the team dynamic, finding new stimulus towards the development of her sporting life.
“I have always loved ice skating. Plus, I have always loved the cold. I pursued speed skating professionally for three years. Yet, hockey was much more appealing to me. The overall team play plus the effort in the team’s victory attracted me much more than individual sports.”
Early in Rasekhi’s competitive endeavors, a significant opportunity brought her to another corner of the world. Joining the Hong Kong Dragons inline team, making the visceral decision as Iran did not have a national inline team at the time, the experience furthered her love of the game. Simultaneously making history as the first Iranian woman to compete inline in Hong Kong, Rasekhi became known by the moniker “scoring girl”. Resulting in the milestone of her first international tournament, the jubilation of several tournament triumphs with the Dragons added a feeling of momentum, simultaneously appreciating another part of the world.
“In 2007, I, as the only female player from Iran, went to Hong Kong with the men’s inline hockey team and experienced my first international tournament with the Hong Kong Dragons team. It was definitely an amazing experience to see a whole new world of hockey and play with strong teams from East Asia. It greatly motivated me.”
Currently calling the United Arab Emirates (UAE) home, the Union women’s ice hockey tournament stands as the highlight of Rasekhi’s season. In 2021, she captured a silver medal as one of the captains of the Farmanieh Club. With the quality of play increasing annually, this year’s tournament featured eight teams, including one from the Philippines. Worth noting, August 2023 saw Rasekhi travel for a tournament there, skating at the SM Mall of Asia rink with a club known by the sobriquet Goal-Busters.
Skating for the Al Dhabi team in the Union tournament, the championship game featured an element of emotion for Rasekhi. Facing off versus the Iranian team Icebox, a club she skated for as recently as 2022, there were many familiar faces on both ends of the ice. Prevailing in a 4-2 win, the chance to add the triumph of the Union Cup to her sporting resume brings a strong sense of achievement, marking another major milestone in a brilliant athletic career.
“Well, I have been living in the United Arab Emirates for almost three years now. In terms of competition, the Women’s Union Cup in the UAE is one of the highest-level tournaments held in Asia. I can even say it had a much higher level than the Asian competitions because there was very little difference in goals scored between the top teams in the standings.
The organization of these competitions was flawless, and the Al Ain Ice Rink is one of the best ice rinks in the Middle East. Together we can compete and get organized, and UAE did the best job.”
Among the key themes of this year’s tournament included inspiration. Starting with team captain Fatima Al-Qubaisi, also the CEO of the Together We Can Organization, other notable events she assembled included a women’s ice hockey tournament held during Ramadan. One of the most notable figures in UAE ice hockey, her tireless efforts were tremendously appreciated by players and fans alike.
Another significant competitor that inspired Rasekhi involved the opportunity to call Taylor Woods a teammate. Having won the prestigious Isobel Cup earlier in the year, Woods presence brought a major league feeling to a tournament expanding in scope and relevance. Gaining the opportunity to hoist the Union Cup alongside a highly accomplished star as Woods marked a full circle moment for Rasekhi.
Considering that Woods is a two-sport star, having participated in numerous Strong Woman competitions, Rasekhi and Woods were first acquainted in the realm of CrossFit. Having never taken to the ice together at such a high level prior, Woods’ phenomenal skill set served as motivation. Eager for the opportunity to play together once more, the glory attained in 2023 serves as stimulus for Rasekhi to aspire towards reaching even greater heights in the game.
“I first met Taylor Woods in 2007 in a CrossFit class. She was very friendly and cool. We followed each other on social media and became good friends despite the distance. But when Taylor came to the United Arab Emirates and I spent time with her, I realized that she was not only a champion in hockey and in strongest women, but she also had a very likable and warrior-like personality.
Playing with her elevated all of our game levels. We learned many new things from her. She is now one of my best friends, and I cannot wait to see her again. Hopefully we are going to have some perfect hockey planned in the future together.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”