“The World Championships was important for us, following on from our recent successes. We had to prove that we had not won by chance and this was a good start ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics."
Morteza Mehrzadselakjani has not stopped winning since joining the Iranian men’s sitting volleyball team in 2016. The 30-year-old was fundamental in his country’s success at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Super 6 and, most recently, the 2018 World Championships.
Despite extending their winning streak, Mehrzadselakjani knows competition is getting tougher each year and admits he is “quite happy” about winning the world title.
In the final, Iran beat defending champions Bosnia and Herzegovina to be crowned world champions for the seventh time. They had waited eight years to regain the crown and defeated Japan, Germany, Russia*, Egypt and Ukraine on their way to the title.
“[Competition is higher] because Russia were involved; they are a good team and are well respected. The Russian players have improved and I believe that our toughest match was against them,” said Mehrzadselakjani.
“The World Championships was important for us, following on from our recent successes. We had to prove that we had not won by chance and this was a good start ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
“[Everyone back home] was happy and full of congratulations but some of them were upset because we lost two sets!”
Mehrzadselakjani was chosen as July’s Allianz Athlete of the Month but believes libero Ramezan Salehihajkolaie is the man who has most influence on the team.
“He is a source of energy and a moving engine for the team. I am happy that he is beside us and supports the team,” said Mehrzadselakjani.
After a short break, Iran are back into training in preparation for the forthcoming Asian Para Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, in October. The team will be looking to maintain their form with “effort and endeavour.”
After enjoying so much success, one may think Mehrzadselakjani wants to take a rest. Far from that, he is hungry for more and hoping to become “a two-time Paralympic champion at Tokyo 2020. It sounds so much better than one-time winner!”
*Editor's note: The International Paralympic Committee suspended the Russian Paralympic Committee on 7 August 2016 for its inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations, in particular its obligation to comply with the IPC Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code (to which it is also a signatory). As a result of the suspension, Russian athletes cannot enter IPC sanctioned events or competitions, including the Paralympic Games.