Iranian para-cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad has died after a crash at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Golbarnezhad, who was 48-years-old, suffered a cardiac arrest during the C4-5 road race. The Paralympic Cycling Road event took place in Pontal — a small peninsular beach area in the West Zone of Rio de Janeiro — that contains the Grumari circuit.
The circuit was also used in the 2016 Rio Olympics and involves hilly stretches with steep bends during descents. It was on one of these precarious loops that the para-cyclist faced a crash that caused him to hit a rock headlong.
The incident is being investigated by the Paralympics Committee in depth.
The Rio Paralympics was the Iranian para-cyclist’s second Paralympic games appearance. He had earlier competed in the London 2012 Paralympics where he finished in 18th position in the men’s 1km time trial of the same C4-5 event, but did not finish the final C4-5 men’s road race.
Golbarnezhad was also a powerlifter and had served in the Iran-Iraq War, which lasted through the most part of the 1980s.
The C4-5 para-cycling race was eventually won by the Netherlands’s Abraham Gebru Daniel. Brazil’s Chaman Lauro Cesar won silver, while Italy’s Tarlao Andrea took bronze.
The BBC report of the incident notes that the Iranian flag has been lowered to half-mast following the death of Golbarnezhad. A moment of silent respect will also be observed during the closing ceremony that will take place tonight.
The report quotes Masoud Ashrafi, the secretary general of Iran’s National Paralympic Committee.
“He had been cycling for 12 years and he was our best cyclist. He was married and has a wife and one son. He was the kind of man who was a family man. He loved his family.”
In what has been a testament to the resilience and brilliance of the human mind and body at the Rio Paralympics, the tragic death of the gifted para-cyclist from Iran has “cast a shadow” on the conclusion of the Games.
A CNN report quotes International Paralympic Committee president Sir Philip Craven, who describes the sentiment of the paralympic community in the aftermath of the crash.
“The athlete received treatment at the scene and was in the process of being taken to the athlete hospital when he suffered a cardiac arrest. The ambulance then diverted to the nearby Unimed Rio Hospital in Barra where he passed away soon after arrival. The Paralympic family is united in grief at this horrendous tragedy which casts a shadow over what have been great Paralympic Games here in Rio. This is truly heart-breaking news and the thoughts and condolences of the whole Paralympic Movement are with Bahman’s family, friends, and teammates as well as the whole of the National Paralympic Committee (NPC) of Iran.”
This is the first time that a competitor in the Summer Olympics or Paralympics has died in the course of participating in an event since the Olympics in Rome in 1960.
An Australian para-cyclist, reports ABC, has been injured in the same race. Alistair Donohoe of Australia collided with Ukraine’s Yahor Dementyev as the two neared the finish line of the C4-5 road race.
The two had maintained pole positions and were racing to the end when they collided. Donohoe, who ran without his bike to complete the race, eventually finished in fifth place while Dementyev, who lay on the ground, was disqualified. Donohoe was quoted in his post-collision confusion.
“As they put me in the neck brace, I just kept asking ‘what’s the result?’ Technically I crossed the line first but I was still unsure because I ran across the line, and it’s not a running race.”
As investigations are launched into the death of the Iranian para-cyclist, the Paralympics flag will fly with a little less vigor at the close of what has been some extraordinary Games in Rio.
[Featured image by Buda Mendes/Getty Images]