Germany qualify for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

Hosts Germany have won the Tokyo 2020 Men’s Qualification Tournament in Duisburg, rallying from a set down to win 3-1 against Kazakhstan in the final. Ukraine claimed the bronze medal with their straight-set defeat of Croatia, while the United States beat Canada in a down-to-the-wire five-set encounter to claim fifth place. The Germans will join Japan, Iran, Bosnia & Herzegovina, the Russian Paralympic Committee, Brazil, China and Egypt in August for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Gold medal match: Germany vs. Kazakhstan 3-1 (17-25, 25-13, 25-21, 25-23)

Kazakhstan had a hot start in the match as their main hitter Perdebay Namuratov got involved early on in scoring. With lots of cheers and energy the team from Kazakhstan overpowered Germany in the first set 25-17 after Alexandr Demeuov hit clear over the block.

The second set showed a totally different Germany. Every point made was met with huge enthusiasm, showing the emotion that was fitting of playing an exciting final. Halfway through the set the Germans created a 20-2 run to level the match at 1-1 with a 25-13 win in the second frame.

Kazakhstan regrouped and came back on court with the same determination as in the opening set. Captain Berik Izmaganbetov started the 4-0 run with an ace, but that sparked up the German side to come up with their own charge. As both teams gave it their all in the third set, power hitter Dominik Albrecht and Heiko Wiesenthal delivered when points mattered most, as the former scored off the block and the latter made brilliant hits on the second ball to close the set 25-21 in their favour.

The Germans clearly had momentum in the fourth set and mounted an eight-point lead, but the fight with Kazakhstan was far from over. After the timeout at 18-10, the Kazakhs won the first three points that propelled them to continue their run. They blocked tournament MVP Albrecht twice in a row to level the score at 21-all, and even swung the momentum to their side with a 23-22 lead when Izmaganbetov scored on an attack.

The Germans’ hopes almost faded, but Alexander Schiffler block got them back in the game. And one point later, they were on match point, which was converted into a win when an Izamaganbetov hit landed out of bounds. The Germans erupted into celebration as they secured the final Tokyo 2020 ticket after an exhausting battle.

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Heiko Wiesenthal: “Great moment, we are very happy to win this match. The first set wasn’t that good, it went to Kazakhstan. But then we turned the game. It was nervous at the beginning; we didn’t have the feel for the ball. We made too many errors. In the remaining sets we played much better. This is the thing we have wanted. We have been training for two years for this moment. And we are very, very happy to have the ticket for Tokyo.”

Coach Michael Merten: “I’m very happy for the players, the federation, the staff and the fans. We want to play for a top result in Tokyo. We don’t want to be there just to play. I think we can make it to the semifinal and maybe then nothing can stop us.”

Bronze medal match: Ukraine vs. Croatia  (25-16, 25-19, 25-16)

The bronze medal match was a replay of the tournament’s first match of the tournament between Ukraine and Croatia. Ukraine won in straight sets in their earlier encounter on Tuesday and had the same intention in their second encounter. Playing with strongholds Denys Bytchenko and captain Sergii Shevchenko, Ukraine had the edge right from the start. Croatia did not seem to have brought the same energy as they had displayed against Kazakhstan in the semifinal.

Ukraine moved ahead 1-0 after Ruslan Horyakin won a blocking battle. In the second set Ukraine created a big gap right away, and within a minute it was 11-3. Croatia brought in Hrvoje Rados and that made a bit of a difference for them as he got a few blocks in and served an ace, but Ukraine remained dominant. Roman Pryshchepa hit hard on set point to secure the win for Ukraine: 25-19.

Croatia had a fiery start in the third set, taking a 5-1 lead. But it didn’t last as Bytchenko made a few important blocks to bring the score to a deadlock at 6-all. The Ukranians pushed one last time, leavinng Croatia to pick up the pieces with a 25-16 win to seize the bronze medal.

“We were really sad about losing the semis to Germany yesterday, because it was our dream to go to Tokyo. It’s the best tournament of the world. But this is sport. We lost, Germany was stronger. Somebody had to lose.” 

5th place match: United States vs. Canada 3-2 (23-25, 26-24, 32-34, 25-21, 15-11)

The battle for fifth between two ParaVolley Pan America teams was a tight race until the end as both sides refused to give up in every rally, resulting to two-point margin finishes in the first three sets.

Canada opened the match with a win in the first set 25-23 after Doug Learoyd hit an unstoppable serve. In the second set, the United States delivered when it mattered the most. As they were up 24-19, they failed to convert on five set points, but on the sixth attempt, Roderik Green hit a cross court that gave USA the win to level the match at 1-1.

The third was an absolute scorcher of a set as Canada had six set points, while USA had four. On Canada’s seventh set point, they were able to force the decision. The Jose Rebelo serve caused a problem on the defence of USA. Canada got the 2-1 set advantage with a 34-32 win.

The first light between the teams came from the fourth set on. USA started to get the momentum and won the fourth 25-21. In the fifth the difference was made on serve by Zachery Upp. He hit two aces, which allowed his team to extend the lead to 12-8.

Captain Eric Duda was the one pulling the final trigger, a touched spike resulted in the 15-11 win. United Stated have finished fifth in Duisburg, while Canada had to settle for sixth place.

Captain Eric Duda: “Canada are always going to give us their best. We play them the most of any other country. We know each other, so we know what we can expect. It always makes for a fun match. Back to the drawing board, we’re going to focus on zonals to qualify for the World Championships. That’s our next goal.”

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During the awarding ceremony the following players were awarded:

Best server: Denys Bytchenko, Ukraine
Best setter: Torben Schiewe, Germany
Best defender: Heiko Wiesenthal, Germany
Best receiver: Nenad  Ilibasic, Croatia
Best blocker: Zhangali Suieuov, Kazakhstan
Best spiker: Perdebay Namuratov, Kazakhstan
MVP: Dominik Albrecht, Germany

After five days of competition the winners have been crowned. Germany will play at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games that will be held from August 24 to September 5.

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