Sitting volleyball is one of the 22 sports on the Paris 2024 Paralympic sports prorgramme. There will be eight teams each in the men's and women's tournaments.
To Masoumeh Zarei Barouti, a sitting
volleyball athlete from the Islamic Republic of Iran, taking up the sport was a
“Before I became an athlete, I
isolated myself and I was at home all the time because of my disability,” Zarei
Barouti said. “But right after I became an athlete, my whole life changed.”
Competing in sitting volleyball means
that she is no longer staying at home. She has found another family outside of
her house, those with whom she trains and travels around the world, competing
in tournaments including the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and most recently, the
Hangzhou 2022 Asian Para Games.
“It’s really important for me and the players to share the
same goal, which is to participate in the Paralympics in Paris,” Coach said.
As Zarei Barouti, the team captain, sees how far the sport
has taken her, she also recognises the impact her playing has had outside of
“People’s behavior toward me has changed since I became an
athlete and people have learned that not everyone with a disability is weak.”
We are family
In Hangzhou, the Iranian team
captured the silver medal in the women’s event, which was won by hosts China.
On the final competition day, Zarei Barouti and her team even held a small
birthday party for one of their players, and they took selfies with the Games
“Our players have really nice
teamwork and sympathy toward each other,” said head coach Leyla Beryanan, who
has led the team for about a year. “The players are like a family and they are
like sisters. As the head coach, I consider myself their mother and I love it.
“It’s important for me to continue supporting
them and be happy together.”
The women’s sitting volleyball event
was introduced at the Paralympic Games in 2004. The Iranian women’s team
participated at the Rio 2016 Games, while the men’s team, a huge powerhouse,
has claimed seven gold medals since the men’s tournament was first included in
the 1980 Paralympics.