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If Brazil is synonym of a winning Volleyball school and if its number of Olympic victories just increases, it is still an apprentice in terms of Sitting Volleyball. The sport has everything to be a huge success in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games™. The fast-paced match happens in a 10m x 6m court divided by a net 1.15 high for men and 1.05 for women. These characteristics allow exciting matches for the audience and requires high technical level from the athletes, who compete in teams composed of six athletes, as in the standing Volleyball. The athletes must always maintain the pelvis touching the ground.
The second most popular sport among the Brazilians, behind Football, Sitting Volleyball will certainly pack the bleachers of the Rio Olympic Park – Hall 3, as it has occurred in the Rio 2007 Parapan-American Games. In the occasion, Brazil won the men’s final over the United States for three sets to two, and conquered a place in the Paralympic Games for the first time in history.
“It was a great experience, and it is an example of what will occur in Rio 2016™. Brazil went to Beijing 2008 and disputed the fifth place. The team lost to China playing against eight thousand Chinese supporters. Among the third and eighth places, all teams play as equals. Only Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina are one step ahead”, tells Amauri Ribeiro, coach of the men’s Brazilian national team from 2004 to 2009 and current Brazilian Paralympic Volleyball Association president.
Two unbeatable countries
Only amputees, athletes with cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries or other motor disability can compete in Sitting Volleyball, disputed since 1980 in the Paralympic Games. In a country, however, the practice of the sport went beyond, reached people without any disability and turned into a tradition.
In Iran, the sport is a success for decades. The Iranians didn’t notice their opponents for 12 consecutive years and won four gold medals between Seul 1988 and Sydney 2000. They lost the final in Athens 2004 to Bosnia and Herzegovina, but they were the champions again in Beijing 2008.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has suffered with the political instability, the war and the international intervention during the 1990s before, during and after the independence process of the former-Yugoslavia. The Sitting Volleyball was the sole sport in which the country has won medals in the Olympic and Paralympic Games: one in Sydney 2000 (silver), one in Athens 2004 (gold) and one in Beijing 2008 (silver).
“In Iran, Sitting Volleyball is very popular. It is practiced in the entire country. Bosnia formed a team and trained in Iran, sharing knowledge”, says Amauri, who has participated in four Olympic Games in the Brazilian national team that won the silver in Los Angeles 1984 and the gold in Barcelona 1992.
China leads the development of the women’s Sitting Volleyball
Sitting Volleyball has opened its doors to women in the Paralympic Games since Athens 2004. In the first two editions, China won two gold medals. The United States have first won the bronze, then the silver. The Holland got the silver, then the bronze.
For the London 2012 Games, disputed by ten men’s teams and eight women’s teams, the front runners are the same. Brazil, however, is already making ambitious plans. “The goal is to dispute for the first time in the women’s competition and pursue a medal in the men’s. For the Rio 2016 Games™, we don’t want anything less than the gold medal”, says the Brazilian leader.
Created in Holland in 1956, the sport grows in numbers of practitioners all over the world. The ranking of the World Organisation Volleyball for Disabled (WOVD) counts on 50 nations in the men’s version and on 30 in the women’s. For the Rio 2016 Games™, the local apprentices will have the traditional giants seated in front of them. Beside the pelvis, the feet on the ground can take them to the highest place.