Once again, Sitting Volleyball has featured in the International Paralympic Committee’s Top 50 list – this time in 2016 with three ‘Moments’ together in one tidy package!
USA Women take Paralympic Sitting Volleyball Gold over perennial champions China
It was no short journey for the USA Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team to the Gold Medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Winners of the Bronze in Athens 2004 – where Women’s Sitting Volleyball debuted, and Silvers in Beijing 2008 and London 2012, the team seemed to always just come up a little short against perennial favourites and Gold medalists China.
USA lost to China in the round robin phase of the Rio 2016 competition, and as always, it was close. The Gold medal match was another story altogether, with the USA winning convincingly 3-0. However, the fact that the USA won Gold is not the only story. The even bigger story is how dominant the USA were in the match. Rarely does one see a game plan executed so flawlessly – in ANY sport. After the match, even the athletes themselves could not believe that they had won so convincingly. It was a demonstration of skill, control, discipline and execution – a dream match for USA. Those who witnessed this match know what they saw, and the significance of the achievement. Team USA played in a way that will sit in the history books for a long time.
IRI Men honour their fallen compatriot with Sitting Volleyball Gold
The I R Iran Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team was in great shape this whole competition year, and were favourites to win Gold at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. They were on track to do just that, when the day before the Gold medal match they and all their IRI teammates received the devastating news that Iranian cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad had died in an accident in the road race.
The news hit everyone from all nations at the Games very hard. The Iranian team was devastated. However, they rose like the champions they are, honouring their fallen teammate by bringing a photo of him onto their team bench, and finding within themselves the resolve to fight harder for the Gold, and dedicate the victory to Golbarnezhad, sharing the Gold medal victory celebration with him. It was a beautiful but very difficult moment for all.
Morteza Mehrzadselakjani, star athlete on the team, said “When we came here for the final we were holding his picture today. We devote this win and we give it to him, to his family. He was part of the team today with his picture. His soul was with us. We are happy for that.”
(quote from The Guardian)
Rwandan Women’s Sitting Volleyball the first Sub-Saharan women’s team – in any sport – to compete at the Paralympics in the history of the Games
The list of ‘first’ achievements for the Rwandan Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team just keeps getting longer. They were the winners of the first-ever ParaVolley Africa Women’s Sitting Volleyball Championships in 2015, thereby qualifying for the Rio 2016 Paralympics. Then, after a year of training and competing and raising their game, they competed in Rio 2016 as the first-ever Sub-Saharan women’s team in ANY sport in the history of the Paralympic Games.
The team had a rough road in Rio, not winning a match, but they certainly won the hearts of all the fans, who cheered “RWANDA! RWANDA!” throughout all the team’s matches. In their first match of the tournament – against powerhouse China, no less – the crowd went absolutely crazy when Rwanda won their first-ever point in Paralympic Sitting Volleyball. It was a moment to remember, without question.