30 Iranian women qualify for Rio 2016

Despite 1,345 medals being handed out at the Incheon 2014 Asian Para Games in South Korea, the most historical arguably went to the Iranian women’s sitting volleyball team as they reached the finals and qualified for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games for the very first time, making it one of the Top 50 Moments of 2014. Iran overcame Sri Lanka and Japan on their way to the finals, before losing to London 2012 Paralympic champions China in the final. Despite the result, their silver medal meant they still qualified for Rio 2016. In the preliminary rounds, Iran flew past Sri Lanka in a quick three sets in 38 minutes, building their confidence for the latter stages. They then beat Japan in the semi-finals, comfortably winning in three sets (18-26, 15-25, 23-25), to reach the final and claim revenge on the side that beat them at this stage at the 2010 Asian Para Games in Guangzhou, China. Zeinab Maleki Dizicheh, top scorer for Iran in the semi-final, said she was delighted that the team achieved what they set out to. “Our main goal was the final and qualifying for the Paralympic Games for the first time. My team was overjoyed,” she said. “I was waiting four years for these Games. All these successes are because of our efforts and more improvements since Guangzhou.” Since her first professional competition in Egypt in 2008, Maleki Dizicheh has learnt that defeat powers you on to victory, and says that her personal philosophy is that “After any loss, there is a victory. It’s just that I should fight for it.” The team certainly fought in Incheon, going into the final confident and prepared. Ahead of Incheon the team attended six different sport camps focusing on techniques, tactics and overall fitness. Going into the final against London 2012 champions China, revision was key. “When we reached the final, we watched our competitions with China again and again to find out our weaknesses and strengths, to know more about the Chinese team,” Zeinab said. In the finals, Iran fought hard but lost in three sets (15-25, 12-25, 15-25). Again Maleki Dizicheh was top scorer, driving the team forwards with her excellent ball handling skills and creative hitting. “China are the champions in Paralympic Games and World Championships,” she said. “We hoped to do better, but as this Iranian team had not participated in any international competitions before Incheon, we did not have enough experience. “I am sure we will compete much better next time against China.” Now, Iran are looking forward to the first ever Paralympic Games in the team’s history and Maleki Dizicheh is looking to go one step further and win gold in Rio. “After four hard-working years, we have qualified for the Paralympic Games for the first time. Success at Rio 2016 is my main goal and my teammates too.” Visit the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2014 campaign page for more information