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From a Bruising Sport, a Friendship of Champions: Iranian motocross racer's visit is chance to ride with her American friend

By Jeff Baron, Staff Writer,, Washington

American motocross champion Ashley Fiolek, left, and Iranian champion Noora Moghaddas got a chance to practice, race and hang out together.

(Photo: Courtesy of Chris TedescoRed Bull Photofiles)

Washington - Noora Moghaddas and Ashley Fiolek have little in common, but it's more than enough for them to laugh together like the good friends they have become in a few short days.

Moghaddas is Iranian, on her first visit to the United States. Fiolek is the reason she made the trip.

What they have in common is a lifelong love of motorcycles, of going fast on a dirt track, of leaping into the air, of competing, of winning. Moghaddas, 22, is the first Iranian women's motocross champion; Fiolek, 19, is the two-time American champ, not to mention a back-to-back gold medalist in the X Games.

"It's an amazing feeling to me," Fiolek said. "When I'm hitting jumps, it feels like I'm flying. The thrill of that, I guess, that's why I do it. I love it. It's just so much fun. I just have a huge passion for it."

What they don't have in common: Moghaddas is struggling, with little recognition, to build the sport in a country where, by law, women are not allowed to ride motorcycles on the roads. Fiolek is a professional racer with endorsement contracts, the first woman to be a member of the Honda Red Bull Racing team. She practices at the track her parents built at their house in St. Augustine, Florida, and competes at tracks throughout the United States and in Europe.

Another difference: Moghaddas speaks English fairly well; Fiolek, who has been deaf since birth, relies on American Sign Language.

"I just think it's awesome," Fiolek, left, says of Moghaddas's trip. "It's a big thing for me, too: I make a new friend from Iran."

(Photo: Courtesy of Chris TedescoRed Bull Photofiles)

Moghaddas said she first learned about Fiolek at her father's motorcycle shop in Tehran. "He has [motorcycle] magazines. And the magazine has a picture of Ashley and has an interview from her," Moghaddas said. "I read it; I liked the thoughts she had and I like her because she's young."

She went online to learn more about Fiolek. "I thought maybe someday I go to America and see her and cheer for her," Moghaddas said. And when she was interviewed after winning a race in Iran, she sent a copy of the article to Fiolek's manager.

The manager wrote back: Would Moghaddas like to visit Fiolek as a guest of her sponsors? "It's just like a dream," Moghaddas said. "It was shocking. At first I thought maybe it's a joke."

No joke. Moghaddas spent the end of August visiting at the Fioleks' home in Florida and traveling to a track in Massachusetts for a day of racing in the American Women's Motocross series. She took what she called her "worst crash ever" in practice, leaving her shoulders bruised and one eye black, not to mention embarrassing her in front of her new friend. Despite the injury, though, she used a bike and gear supplied by Fiolek's sponsors and rode in one of two races, finishing back in the pack - but not last, as she had feared. (Injuries are a routine part of the sport; Fiolek broke her collarbone badly in the final race of the 2009 season but got back on her bike for the last five laps to finish the race and take the season championship.) Fiolek finished first in one race in Massachusetts and second in the other.

Moghaddas was able to learn from studying Fiolek and other top American riders up close. ("They are really fast," she said.) She rode on American tracks, which she said have impressive jumps. And like any other young woman, she got to hang out with a new buddy. "Ashley says they're homies now," said Fiolek's mother, Roni, who travels with her and serves as her interpreter.

"I didn't even realize that there were girl racers over there" in Iran, Fiolek said. "I just think it's awesome. It's a big thing for me, too: I make a new friend from Iran, and it's really cool, and I'm really glad that she's here. ... It's nice to have somebody new to ride with. She has a really good style."

Fiolek and Moghaddas have begun talking about a visit in Iran. "I'm busy, but I think I will make time to go over there," Fiolek said. "Maybe one day I'll surprise her and show up and we can ride together over there. She can show me what's up."

Moghaddas said women's motocross in Iran is just starting to develop, and it certainly has no professional riders; she is an interior design student, and she trains some other women and girls. If the sport grows in Iran, she said, maybe Fiolek can visit and help train the riders.

"I learn a lot from Ashley. I will bring home too many pictures, too many experiences, and maybe Ashley herself," Moghaddas said. "She'd really like to come with me."

About U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) engages international audiences on issues of foreign policy, society and values to help create an environment receptive to U.S. national interests.

... Payvand News - 09/07/10 ... --

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