The Gelora Bung Karno Tennis Indoor Stadium is set for a five-star showdown when the sitting volleyball competitions at the 2018 Asian Para Games get underway in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 7 October.
As many as nine nations, fielding 162 athletes, will take part in the competition that will run over five days, with the winners to be decided on October 11. But all eyes will be on the two powerhouses of the sport – Iran and China – who will once again look to dominate.
In the men’s competition, Iran, the multiple Paralympic and world champions, have ruled the court in all previous editions of the Asian Para Games and this time too they will look to maintain their stranglehold. Iran confirmed their status as the world’s best team at the recent World Championships in July, winning their seventh world title by defeating defending champions Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 in the final.
Their star player and the tallest man ever to compete a Paralympic Games is Morteza Mehrzadselakjani. At 2.46m, his height means opposing coaches have to re-think their strategies. Playing alongside him will be Rio 2016 stars Sadegh Bigdeli, Ramezan Salehi Hajikolaei, Isa Zirahi and Majid Lashkarisanami and this combination could make Iran unstoppable.
In the women’s contest, it is China who have been the dominant force in the continent. The world’s second-best team and former world champions picked up the bronze medal at the recent World Championships, but it was their worst performance since 2006. They will still be the hot favourites, though, with several Paralympic medallists including Lijun Zhang, Meiling Zhao, Wang Yanan and Zhang Xufei in their side.
Among others, Japan and South Korea in the men’s teams; and Iraq and Kazakhstan in the women’s, might challenge the traditional champions, after finishing in the top four at the Incheon 2014 Games.
The sport, which made its Paralympic debut at the 1980 Arnhem Games, has featured in the previous two editions of the Asian Para Games.