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Iranian cyclist tragedy mars Rio Paralympics finale

Iranian cyclist tragedy mars Rio Paralympics finale

RIO JANEIRO: An Iranian Paralympic cyclist was killed in a road race crash, casting a tragic shadow over the Rio Games on the eve of Sunday's closing ceremony.

Bahman Golbarnezhad, 48, fell during the event Saturday and died of his injuries despite an attempt to take him to the hospital for treatment, officials said.

The cyclist, who wore a prosthesis on his left leg, took up the sport in 2002 and had also competed at the London 2012 Paralympics.

It was the first ever death of an athlete during the Games, International Paralympics Committee (IPC) president Philip Craven told journalists.




Golbarnezhad's accident occurred during the more than two-hour C4-5 road race for athletes with varying disabilities but still able to bicycle.

He was in the first section of a mountainous descent when he fell.

“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 IPC said in a statement.

“The ambulance then diverted to the nearby Unimed Rio Hospital in Barra where he passed away soon after arrival.”

Paralympic officials said Golbarnezhad's family in Iran had been informed and the Iranian team was also told the news during a meeting at the Athletes' Village.

He had been competing in one of the last contests before the Games ended Sunday for a closing ceremony in the Maracana football stadium.

Officials said that a minute of silence would be observed during the ceremony where Brazil will symbolically hand over to Tokyo, host of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

Organisers said that the show in the famous football stadium will feature the best of Brazil's rich music and dance culture in a celebration of what many say have been a surprisingly successful Rio Games.

Golbarnezhad was married with one son, said Masoud Ashrafi, from the Iranian Paralympic Committee (IPC).

Craven called the Iranian's death “truly heartbreaking” and that “everything” had been done to try and save him.

“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,” he said.

Brazil's top official for the Rio Olympics and Paralympics, Carlos Nuzman, called it “very sad news for sport and for the Paralympic movement. Our hearts and prayers are with Bahman's family, his teammates and all the people of Iran.”

The Iranian flag was lowered to half-mast in the Paralympic Village, while the Paralympic flag was to be at half mast during Sunday's sitting volleyball gold-medal match between Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina -- another of the final events.

The British Paralympic team tweeted that it was “devastated by the news of Bahman Golbarnezhad's passing. Our thoughts are with our friends and colleagues from NPC Iran.”

From the end of Sunday, the Olympic and Paralympic ball will be in Tokyo's court.

The Japanese say that the Rio Games have set a high standard for them to follow.

“We have been impressed by our experience across both the Olympic and Paralympic Games and inspired by the passion of the Carioca,” said Toshiro Muto, CEO of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, referring to Rio residents by their nickname.

“We are now more motivated than ever to deliver the best possible Games in four years' time,” he told journalists on Saturday.

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