Iran sitting volleyball team wins Paralympics gold medal

September 19, 2016 - 10:41

Iran’s Ramezan Salehi Hajikolaei, the smallest and slimmest man on the court, hugged his eight-foot-tall teammate Sadegh Bigdeli.

Bigdeli whacked a mammoth spike that drew his team closer – and eventually – to the men’s sitting volleyball gold medal victory.

In a rivalry that has spanned over the last five Paralympic finals, Iran defeated Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-1 on Sunday (18 September) at the Riocentro – Pavilion 6.

But before battle between the old foes resumed, both teams and the entire venue took a moment of silence to remember Iranian cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad, who died on Saturday following a crash in the cycling road race.

It was understandably an emotional day for Iran. And that was clear to see when they knocked the final point to clinch the match and Salehi Hajikolaei bowed on the floor. The rest of his teammates took the Iranian flag to the middle and waved it. The victory marked their first Paralympic gold since Beijing 2008, when Iran last beat Bosnia and Herzegovina in the final.

In a sport about momentum, Iran had it all. Going up 25-21 in the first set, they bounced back from a 25-21 loss in the second to find their rhythm in the third and fourth (25-18, 25-15, respectively).

Iran pulled away from an 11-11 tie in the third to go up 22-17. They captialised on their opponents’ errors, with their last six points in that set coming from Bosnia and Herzegovina faults.

The defending Paralympic champions never seemed to recover from that point.

In the fourth, Bosnia and Herzegovina played back while Iran went on the attack. Bigdeli whacked another point to bring his team up 10-5, and Bosnia and Herzegovina began falling apart to finish with 23 errors.

Iran out-spiked their opponents 59-42, with Bigdeli owning nine of those. Morteza Mehrzadselakjani led his team with 26.

Safet Alibasic led Bosnia and Herzegovina in scoring with 16 spikes.

Earlier in the day, the Egyptian men’s team overcame their Brazilian opponents and a partisan home crowd to clinch their first Paralympic medal in the sport since Athens 2004.

The reigning African champions edged the host nation 3-2 in the bronze medal match. It was a dramatic showdown that saw four of the sets decided by no more than three points: 28-26, 29-31, 19-25, 25-22, 15-13.


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