Iran’s men and China’s women will once again head into the Asian Para Games as favourites, with both teams winning the recent Asian Zonal Championships which were held at the beginning of July in Astana.
The Iran’s men’s team will be coached by Hadi Rezaei, former player, captain and then coach who was tempted out of retirement in November 2022 to lead the team to an historic eighth world title in 2022. Speaking to the IPC earlier in the year, he credits “The support of government, the people, clubs, sponsors, the beauty of the sport and the support for athletes” as reasons for the growth of the sport in Iran. He also acknowledges that the success of the team, winning seven out of the last nine editions of the Paralympic Games, brings a different kind of pressure.
“Our biggest challenge is that Iranian people expect us to become champions, which puts a heavy responsibility on our athletes and coaches,” Rezaei said. “In some sports, winning a championship in Asia or participating in the Paralympics is an honour, but it seems in sitting volleyball, participation and championship have different criteria.
“The criterion is that if we achieve the second place in the Paralympic competitions, it means that we have failed.”
The world’s tallest Paralympian Morteza Mehrzad who reaches 247cm will once more feature for Iran’s men.
Kazakhstan took silver in the men’s event in the Asian Zonal Championships with China in third. Joining them will be Cambodia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Myanmar and Thailand.
The Chinese women’s team booked their birth to Paris with their victory in the Asian Zonal Championships and will head to Hangzhou looking to secure their fourth consecutive Asian Para Games title. Iran’s women will be hoping to knock them off their perch and emulate the success of their men’s team. Also in the women’s competition are Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia and Thailand.
The competition will take place at the Linping Sports Centre Gymnasium from 23rd – 27th October.