“It will be essential to keep our focus and our aggressive block game. And we need to use our tall players effectively.”
Editor’s note: Each sport on the Rio 2016 Paralympic programme will have a dedicated week of featured content published on paralympic.org. Every week a new sport will be featured and the series will run until September’s Games, helping the public understand more about the 22 sports being contested in Rio.
Based on previous Paralympic Games and world rankings, Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina are expected to battle for gold in Rio 2016. But do not count out the Brazilian men’s sitting volleyball team, according to Wellington Platini Silva.
The 31-year-old Brazilian does not deny that Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina are the top teams, rightfully ranked No. 1 and 2 in the world respectively. But Platini has faced both opponents enough times to know what it will take to beat them.
“I don’t think they are the favourites for gold in Rio 2016, but the strongest teams heading in,” Platini said. “It will be essential to keep our focus and our aggressive block game. And we need to use our tall players effectively.”
Iran have won five of the last seven Paralympics. But reigning Paralympic, world and European champions Bosnia and Herzegovina are riding momentum into Rio 2016.
Platini has played on the Brazilian national team for 11 years, and the veteran is familiar with both opponents' game style. In London 2012, which was Platini’s first Games experience, Brazil did not win a set against Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina during the preliminary rounds.
However, the 2014 World ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball World Championships in Elblag, Poland, was a different story.
Brazil shocked the sitting volleyball scene by beating Iran in five sets in the semi-finals. The victory advanced Brazil into the gold-medal match, where they lost to Bosnia and Herzegovina 23-25, 25-20, 7-25, 26-28.
It was a stepping stone for Brazil, however, to leave with World silver.
“When we beat Iran in 2014, it was the first time in 25 years Iran was not in the finals,” Platini recalled. “They are very good, and in the 2016 Intercontinental Championships in March, they took revenge on us in the finals. They played very well. But I would say that Brazil did not play to its potential that day.”
The 2016 World ParaVolley Intercontinental Championships held in Anji, China, featured Brazil and Iran in the qualified teams finals, where Iran won 25-21, 25-14, 25-13.
With seven of the eight qualified Rio teams at the competition in China, Brazil got an opportunity to see what would be in store come September.
Brazil's men's team won golds in the 2011 and 2015 Parapan American Games, and World silver in 2014. But they have yet to win a Paralympic medal.
For Wellington, who had his right leg amputated during a motorcycle accident in 2005, making history, especially on home soil, would be special.
“We know Rio 2016 will be very competitive,” Platini said. “We will fight for the podium, and we all want to be champions. I think we deserve it because all the work we have been doing these years.”
“It is like a dream to have my family close and live together,” he said. “This moment will be unbelievable to me.”
Rio 2016 sitting volleyball webpage.
IPC sitting volleyball webpage.
For sitting volleyball development resources, visit www.volleyslide.net.
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.