Sport Week: Top moments in sitting volleyball

Memories that have been inked into Paralympic history since sport's debut in 1980 19 May 2020
female sitting volleyball players celebrating on the court
The US women's team have been on a roll since winning their first Paralympic gold at Rio 2016
ⒸLima 2019

Sitting volleyball has been part of every Paralympics since the 1980 Games in Arnhem, Netherlands. The sport has blossomed over the past 40 years, and here are some of the most memorable moments to recall.

Sitting volleyball makes Paralympic debut

Volleyball had two disciplines in their first Paralympics in 1980 – sitting and standing. Seven countries competed for medals in sitting with the host nation taking the title, while five competed in standing won by Israel. At the time, only men’s competitions were contested at the Games but after development efforts, women’s sitting volleyball was finally included at Athens 2004 with six teams and has expanded since.

US women end Chinese streak for first Paralympic title

Since 2004, the Chinese women had dominated every Games until Rio 2016 when the USA took them down in straight sets.

The gold medal win followed silver medals for Team USA at the 2012 and 2008 Paralympic Games, and a bronze medal at the 2004 Paralympics.

It was at the Beijing 2008 Games where the USA-China rivalry heated up. They had played in five gold medal finals, including both 2010 and 2014 World Championships. China won four of those matches; the USA’s single gold came earlier in 2016 at the World ParaVolley Intercontinental Cup, which also became the turning point for them as they finally exacted their revenge in Rio.


Iran take back gold

In a rivalry that has spanned over the last five Paralympic finals before Rio 2016, Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina were once again at centre stage. This time, Iran downed their toughest opponent 3-1. The victory marked their first Paralympic gold since Beijing 2008, when Iran last beat Bosnia and Herzegovina in the final.

A literal stand-out for Iran was the debut of Morteza Mehrzadselakjani, the tallest Paralympian in Rio at 8 ft. He led his team with 26 spikes and Iran's sixth Paralympic title.

Egypt make African history

No African nation had reached the podium since the sport's Paralympic debut in 1980 -- until Athens 2004. The Egyptian men faced off against Germany in a thrilling bronze medal match that went into five sets to achieve the region’s first Paralympic medal in the sport. Two Games later, they returned for a medal position at Rio 2016, where they overcame a rowdy Brazilian home crowd to take the bronze medal.


Rwanda lead development efforts in sub-Sahara Africa

Before Rwanda's women's team took the court in Rio, they had made history in 2015. That year, they won the ParaVolley Africa Sitting Volleyball Championships in a comeback win over Egypt 3-2. The victory ensured Rwanda's ticket to the 2016 Paralympics, which carried bigger significance; they became the first women’s sitting volleyball team -- and first sub-Sahrahan African team -- to represent the continent at a Paralympics. 

Their success has not stopped at Rio. The nation successfully won the 2019 regional title to ensure back-to-back appearances at next year's Games in Tokyo.