Six months to go until competition kicks off in the Netherlands
Iran celebrates a point over Bosnia and Herzegovina during the gold medal match of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. © • Getty
The 2018 Sitting Volleyball World Championships will get underway in exactly six months and run until 22 July in the Netherlands, featuring the world’s best 15 male and female teams. Check out which of those squads will begin as strong candidates for gold on Dutch soil.
Bosnia & Herzegovina: Will need to improve as they seek to successfully defend the world title claimed in Elblag, Poland, in 2014, when they beat Brazil 3-1 in a tight final. In 2016, Bosnia & Herzegovina lost to Iran 3-1 in the Paralympic final. One year later, they lost to Russia* in the semi-finals at the European Championships and could not defend the continental title for a 10th time.
Iran: Aim to regain the world title they won for the last time in Edmond, USA, in 2010. Led by their 2.46m tall star player Morteza Mehrzadselakjani, Iran sealed gold at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games following a 3-1 victory over Bosnia & Herzegovina in the final. They are hoping to repeat such success in the Netherlands.
Egypt: With Hesham Elshwikh’s leadership, the African country secured its first Paralympic medal in the sport at Rio 2016, taking bronze after a much-celebrated victory over hosts Brazil 3-2 in a thrilling game. They have repeatedly ended within the top four teams at World Championships and Paralympic Games and they will surely be a leading contender again in the Netherlands.
China: Will go for a third successive world title, but need to be on top of their game in order to beat arch-rivals USA. Four years ago, China emerged triumphant 3-2 in the final in Elblag, Poland. But the US team took revenge two years later by smashing China 3-0 at Rio 2016, denying them the chance to win a four consecutive Paralympic gold.
USA: They have become a dominant force in the sport following recent successful years, which included a world silver medal and Paralympic gold. Kaleo Kanahele has been fundamental in this whole process. The 21-year-old player is considered one of the world’s best setters and consistent servers, and is expected to achieve many more great things in sitting volleyball.
Brazil: Achieved a historical third place on home soil at Rio 2016 after defeating Ukraine 3-0 in the bronze-medal game in front of a cheering crowd. Opposite spiker Suellen Cristine Delangelica Lima, who was also named Best Sitting Volleyball Player of the Year by the Brazilian Paralympic Committee in 2015, will now lead the team at the World Championships.
*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.