Sports week: a watch for sitting volleyball

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The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will renew some classic sitting volleyball rivalries, as other teams seek to make Paralympic history. Here are nine athletes who can be a part of those intrigues this summer:

Monique Matthews (née Burkland) (United States)

The United States has made a steady increase in women’s sitting volleyball at every Paralympic Games since the sport’s introduction in Athens in 2004, and Matthews has been a key part of that success.

The outside hitter made her Paralympic debut in London 2012, where the United States finished with the silver following a loss to China. She had 31 points on 23 kills, six blocks and two aces in her first Games. But the talented hitter, who is a stone at the net, was integral to her country as she reversed the result against China with a 3-0 win to win gold at Rio 2016. However, a world title slips away. still in the United States, as they were. beaten by Russia in 2018.

An excellent all-rounder, Matthews was named the 2019 US Sitting Volleyball Player of the Year and was selected as the Top Server at the World ParaVolley World Super 6 as the United States won gold with a record. from 7-0.

Matthews was an all-state softball player and also competed in track and field and basketball before being introduced to sitting volleyball after a work-related injury that left her leg amputated.

© World ParaVolley

Mirzet Duran (BIH)

Duran led Bosnia and Herzegovina to advance to further Paralympic Games when they won silver at the 2018 World Championships after losing to Iran in the final.

Tokyo 2020 will be Duran’s fourth Paralympic Games, having made his debut for the team that won silver in Beijing 2008. Four years later in London 2012, Duran and his teammates were at the top of the podium as Bosnia- Herzegovina won her second Paralympic gold medal. in sitting volleyball. He was also named the tournament’s leading hitter.

Duran was part of the squad that won silver at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games as Iran reversed the London result. He finished best server of the tournament. The two rivals have faced each other in the final at every Games since Sydney 2000, and Tokyo 2020 should be no different.

Duran started the sport in 2003 after a coach from his club OKI Fantomi Sarajevo invited him to try it and he proved his leadership qualities by being the team’s captain for almost a decade.

A seated volleyball man holds a ball preparing to serve

© World ParaVolley

Tang Xuemei (CHN)

Tang is part of a Chinese sitting volleyball team with a strong history of success. The nation had won all Paralympic titles from 2004 until Rio 2016, when they lost to the United States in the final.

Tang joined the national team in their golden triumph in London 2012. It was fulfilling after losing his leg at age 14 in the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, the deadliest in China to date.

She accepted the chance to train for the Shanghai women’s team. Already athletic, having played basketball and table tennis, sitting volleyball came naturally to her. After the regular morning and afternoon workouts, she trained more at night, repeating what she hadn’t mastered during the day.

Tang’s progress was so rapid that she joined the national team a year later and competed at the 2010 World Championships. Then in 2012, she competed in her first Games where she won gold. She was not part of the team that won silver at Rio 2016, but seeks to help China find redemption in Tokyo.

© World ParaVolley

Hesham Elshwikh (EGY)

Egypt has finished among the top teams in major international competitions on several occasions in recent years, and Elshwikh’s exceptional leadership has been a key factor.

After a tough campaign at the 2018 Worlds, which saw him finish fifth, Egypt responded to win the 2019 African Zonal Championships, their third in a row, to qualify for a sixth consecutive Paralympic Games. Egypt recorded a memorable victory in the Rio 2016 bronze medal match against Brazil, recovering from straight sets to one to win; thus adding to his bronze in Athens 2004, of which Elshwikh was also a part.

He was the fifth top scorer at Rio 2016 with 48 spikes and 11 blocks. Egypt also enjoyed success at the World Championships with Elshwikh on the team, winning bronze in 2006 and 2010.

Male seated volleyball player points the ball

© World ParaVolley

Suellen Cristine Dellangelica Lima (BRA)

Rio 2016 was a watershed year for women’s sitting volleyball as Brazil won their first ever medal in the sport with bronze. Lima was instrumental in Brazil’s impressive performance at home.

In 2006, she was called up to the Brazilian sitting volleyball team and was also part of the team that won silver at the Parapan Am Games in 2015. Lima was a substitute in the bronze medal game in Rio 2016 against Ukraine and slowly began to prove themselves as a starter, helping his team clinch silver at the 2019 Parapan Am Games.

© World ParaVolley

Liliane Mukobwankawe (RWA)

The Rwanda captain guided her country to gold medals at the ParaVolley Africa Sitting Volleyball Championships in 2015 and 2019, and made sure they qualify for Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, respectively.

Rwanda made history as the first sub-Saharan African women’s team to compete in the Paralympic Games in 2016, and they continued to progress under the leadership of Mukobwankawe. She was voted best forward at the 2019 African Sitting Volleyball Championships.

Mukobwankawe was born with full limb function but suffered an accident at the age of 7 which left her with a fractured right femur. She suffered another injury during an interschool basketball competition in 2005 and was introduced to sitting volleyball in 2007.

Rwandan Sitting Volleyball Players Celebrate Point

© Getty

Morteza Mehrzadselakjani (IRI)

Rio 2016’s tallest Paralympian, standing 2.46m, will be absent to ensure his country retains its Paralympic gold at Tokyo 2020.

In 2018, Mehrzadselakjani helped Iran reclaim the world title after eight years in Arnhem, Netherlands, and they represented defending champions and longtime rivals Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 in the final.

He was the second-best forward at Rio 2016 – his Paralympic debut – as Iran won their sixth Paralympic gold in sitting volleyball in the last eight Paralympic Games.

Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina have played in the last five games for the gold medal of the Paralympic Games.

Mehrzad, as it’s called, continues to improve on an already strong Iranian team, with its highest block reach of 1.96m and highest peak reach of 2.30m creating plenty of headaches for opposing coaches.

He started sitting volleyball in 2011, when a coach spotted him on TV and identified his raw potential, calling Mehrzad to the national team in March 2016.

© OIS

Silvia Biasi (ITA)

The defensive specialist was instrumental in securing a ticket for the women’s team to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, via their first-ever historic European Championships medal with silver against Russia.

Italy booked their ticket to Tokyo with a complete 3-0 victory over Germany in the semi-finals to become the first Italian sitting volleyball team, men or women, to reach the Paralympic Games. Biasi took on the role of receiver and set up several key plays that led to Italy’s triumph.

Woman reaches to save volleyball

© World ParaVolley

Gilberto Lourenco da Silva (BRA)

Da Sliva started playing sitting volleyball in 2006 and was part of the national team in 2007. He made Brazil’s first-ever podium at the World Championships when he won silver at the 2014 event in Elblag, Poland. Brazil supported this display with bronze at the 2018 Worlds.

The Rio 2016 host nation narrowly missed a Paralympic medal at home in an epic bronze medal battle, which they lost 3-2 to Egypt. But Da Silva helped them reach Tokyo 2020 with an impressive performance at the 2019 Parapan Am Games in Lima, Peru, where Brazil beat the United States 3-1 to qualify for a fourth consecutive Paralympic Games.

© World ParaVolley


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