Devised in the Netherlands in 1956 as a rehabilitation activity for injured soldiers, Sitting Volleyball is now one of the most popular Paralympic team sports.
Sitting volleyball is a team sport featuring constant motion and bursts of explosive action. Two teams of six players separated by a net try to score points by grounding the ball onto the other side's court. It became an official sport for men at the Arnhem 1980 Paralympic Games and for women at Athens 2004.
Players need to have speed, strength and stamina, as well as excellent technical skills and the ability to think quickly and tactically. With more than 10,000 athletes involved in over 75 countries, Sitting Volleyball is a truly global game.
Each team is allowed three touches of the ball before it must cross over the net (in addition to a legal block). The key attacking move is the set and spike, in which a player feeds the ball (set) for a team-mate to hit into the opposition's court (spike).
A match has five sets, with each set being won by the first team to 25 points (15 in the fifth set). The rules are based on the FIVB rules for able-bodied volleyball, with a few minor modifications. The seated version requires a smaller court (10 metres x 6m) and a lower net (1.15m for men, 1.05m for women).
The most important rule is that if a player's pelvis leaves the ground during play, a ‘lifting’ foul has been committed. Athletes move around the court by sliding using the power of their arms, without leaving a sitting position.
Two gold medals will be at stake at Tokyo 2020 in the men's and women's competitions.
International Federation: World ParaVolley
- Team tournament (Men/Women)
Strategies for success
Sitting Volleyball is a hugely tactical game both in attack and defence. Attacking ploys include combination plays and feints such as quick passing to evade an opponent's block. Many teams use fast, powerful serves as a weapon. Sitting Volleyball allows serves to be blocked, which makes deceptive serving a key strategy.
Each team has a specialist defensive player called a libero, who may not play any attacking shots. The libero is easy to identify as their kit is a different colour to the rest of the team. The libero has a pivotal role but all players must be able to defend as a group. Because the court is smaller and the net lower than in Olympic Volleyball, spikes and serves are fired at closer range. Dealing with these requires very sharp reactions.
Retaining serve is vital. Infringements such as hitting the ball out of the court will see a team lose possession of the serve and, if it happens often, probably go on to lose the match.
Stars on court
The Sitting Volleyball competition at Tokyo 2020 will feature eight teams in each of the men's and women's competitions, with qualification through continental events. A preliminary round-robin will determine the rankings for a knockout round.
Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina have contested the men's gold medal match at the last five Paralympic Games, with Iran emerging victorious at Rio 2016. Indeed, Iran has won gold on six occasions, after a period when the Netherlands were the leading team.
In the women's game, the USA overcame three-times champions China to take the gold medal in Rio, with home fans cheering Brazil to bronze after their victory against Ukraine.
One of the most prominent athletes at Rio 2016 was Iran's Morteza Mehrzadselakjani, known as Mehrzad. At a staggering 2.46m tall he is the world's second tallest man and the tallest athlete ever to compete at a Paralympic Games. Born with acromegaly due to a congenital hormonal imbalance and later suffering an accident which means he uses a wheelchair or crutches in everyday life, Mehrzad applied his height to great effect on court.
Playmaker Kaleo Kanahele was one of the stars of the USA team in Rio. Considered one of the best setters and most consistent servers in the world, Kanahele began playing aged nine. She gained a silver medal while still a teenager at London 2012 and went one better four years later.
- Makuhari Messe Hall A