No. 14 Brazil springs a surprise and wins World Championships silver

Against all odds, Brazil won silver at the 2014 World ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball Championships in Elblag, Poland. 18 Dec 2014 By Hernán Goldzycher | for the IPC

“I could not stop crying. The feeling of the accomplished duty and the pride of representing well my country were too strong. It was such a great honour!”

With the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games less than two years away, Brazil’s men won their first ever sitting volleyball World Championships medal this summer. As the IPC Top 50 Moments continue, Brazil’s silver medal success in Elbag, Poland, is No. 14.

After football, volleyball is the most popular sport in Brazil. However, unlike standing volleyball in which the South American country excels at every competition, Brazil had never achieved a notable result in sitting volleyball until earlier this year.

June’s World ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball Championships was the turning point however with the men’s national team performing superbly on the world stage, increasing hopes of medal success at Rio 2016.

Going into the tournament, Brazil was confident of success.

“We have a very strong team and we knew that at the 2014 World Para Volley World Championships we could defeat any team. Our goal was to end among the four first teams,” said Fernando Lages Guimaraes, the Brazilian coach.

“We had an extensive preparation, we studied each of our rivals in advance and our tactics were very good,” he explained.

Drawn in Pool B, Brazil enjoyed wins over Canada and Kazakhstan, but could only manage a second place finish following a loss to Paralympic champions Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In the last 16, Brazil eliminated the hosts Poland 3-0. They then beat Russia for the first time 3-2 in the quarter finals to set-up a mouth-watering last four clash with Iran, a team that had won gold at five out of the last seven Paralympic Games.

“We knew exactly what we had to do. But it was not so simple. In fact, we had never won even a single set against Iran before,” said Fernando.

Unexpectedly Brazil won the two first sets, but with victory in reach, Iran made a comeback and tied the match.

In a thrilling last set, Brazil cruised to a 15-12 victory, leaving coach Fernando an emotional wreck after such a historic win.

“I could not stop crying. The feeling of the accomplished duty and the pride of representing well my country were too strong. It was such a great honour!” he said.

Two anecdotes show just how surprising Brazil’s triumph over Iran was.

“Before the semi-finals, an athlete of one of the delegations approached me and wished me luck. But not for the match against Iran, but for the one against Egypt for the bronze medal!” explained Fernando.

“It was obvious that he had taken for granted that we were undoubtedly going to lose. After the semi-finals, he knelt in front of me and told me that we were the best.”

“Another funny episode I can remember is that we played against Iran knowing that the schedule was already prepared with Bosnia vs. Iran in the final. Then, they had to change it.”

In the final, Brazil lost 3-1 to Paralympic champions Bosnia and Herzegovina. The defeat did not overshadow what had been a fantastic tournament for the Rio 2016 hosts.

“We lacked experience, tranquillity and a bit of luck. Brazil was 25-24 in the fourth set but, unfortunately, we could not win it. Anyway, it was an unprecedented result that placed us among the best teams in the world,” Fernando said.

With silver in the bag, Fernando is hoping it will act as a catalyst to future success, especially with Rio 2016 so close.

“Bosnia and Iran are the strongest teams. Russia, Germany, Egypt and China are also powerful,” he said.

“It will be a very tough tournament. We will have to improve a lot and be united. That is because here, in Brazil, we have to win the gold.”

Find all Top 50 Moments of 2014 here.