In memory of Ezzat Pashai
by his son, Afshin Pashai
What I recall is that he was happiest when competing or helping young athletes. When young, he scouted for competitors and according to my mom, he saw a tall muscular man in a woodworking factory in northern Iran. Ezzat asked him if he wants to come to the capital and see if he would like to try Track and Field and my dad would pay for his expenses out of a budget he was given by the Shah (The King at that time). Ezzat not only coached this man (Salman Hessam), but Hessam became his competitor in Discus throw and eventually competed in the 1976 Summer Olympics.
At that time there were only two stadiums in Tehran. One was overrun by gangs and corruption where even the local police could not interfere. This was in the southern part of the city where there were the population was not affluent. Ezzat was known for his size and tough build, and he was assigned to run this second stadium as well. Shortly after, he implemented membership cards and implemented policies that not only got rid of bad apples but turned some into athletes. While I still hear funny stories from his peers about how he scared off some of these gang members without ever hurting them, I recall my own funny experiences when he took me to work one day. The lifeguards came running to him because a muscular athlete was dangerously dunking someone and the lifeguards were too scared to interfere. Ezzat quickly dove in the pool with his suit and tie and gave the guy a taste of his own medicine. It didn't take long before he changed the reputation of the stadium and recruited many athletes including gymnists and soccer players.
A few years before leaving the country, he started coaching a much younger athlete, Joe Javidara in Javelin throw. Joe eventually became Ezzat's competitor. I recall asking my dad if he really advised Joe correctly since he also competed with him. My dad replied, I coached him every day excluding competition day. Ezzat believed you have to have competition to be the best you can be. By the end of his Track and Field career, Joe beat Ezzat's Javelin throw record and went on to compete in the 1970 and 1974 Asian games and after moving to Maryland, he broke University of Maryland's record. Ironically, in 1977 when Ezzat moved to USA, he made Joe his partner in a LUMS restaurant where most UMD athletes came to eat.
In 1978, Ezzat's kids attended the same private school as Joe Theismann's kids. Theismann and Pashai met in a picnic at an end of year celebration. Despite holding the football for the first time, Ezzat was able to throw the ball the same distance as Theismann. Theismann jokingly told Ezzat that it's a good thing he was not born here or he would be his competition. Ezzat eventually sold his restaurant, but despite enjoying coaching he did not believe in getting paid as a coach and enjoyed helping athletes for free.
He decided to spend more time to exercise, but he would not hesitate to interrupt his own workout to help a younger athlete. During the 90s, Ezzat worked out in GMU Field House Weight Room where his son attended college. Ezzat enjoyed advising athletes in the weight training room and when in the field practicing Javelin throw, he helped GMU athletes including Rob Muzzio who was already a proficient Javelin Thrower.
According to his son, Ezzat was very excited to find PVTC and his son recalls his father's first Masters meet in TC Williams High School where that was one his happiest days. His wife states: "there was never a time where he was not smiling on the Track Field". If he ever came back from practice helping a younger athlete, he would proudly talk about the athlete's improvement as if the athlete was his own child. His son never pursued Track and Field because according to him, "how do you compete with a dad like that? After being diagnosed with a stage 4 pancreatic cancer, he wins a Pentathlon and gets 5 Gold medals. His bicep is thicker than my calf muscle. He could bench twice what I could at any age. Anyone that met us for the first time thought we were brothers and he won medals for the both of us".
Ezzat was not just a giving man on the track, but also towards his neighbors, friends, and family. He moved to the U.S. before the revolution when he had a secure and happy job. He sacrificed his fame and job to give more to his kids because he believed this country is the greatest. He always wanted to train his grandson and bought him his first Turbojav. Ironically, he never got to coach his grandson, but it looks like some of the very same that he coached may be able to help him in PVTC as his legacy in PVTC will continue via his grandkids.