By Amina Nazarli
Azerbaijani Para athletes, which claimed 11 medals in Rio, have been awarded orders and medals.
President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on awarding members of the National Paralympic Team on September 21.
For high achievements in the 15th Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, as well as achievements in the development of national sport, Azerbaijani athletes and their coaches were awarded “Shohrat” orders, “For Service to the Motherland” of the second and third degree and the “Tereggi” medal.
President Aliyev also signed a decree on awarding two-time judo Paralympic champion Ilham Zakiev with the “Honorary Diploma of the President of Azerbaijan” for his merits in the development of the national sport.
Blind judoka, Zakiyev is the winner of gold medal in the 2004 Athens Paralympics and the 2008 Beijing Paralympics in the +100 kg division. Zakiyev is six times European champion, and twice World champion.
He began practicing judo when he was 11. In 1998, when Zakiyev was 18, he went to serve in Azerbaijani army and served on the frontline of the conflict zone. In 1999, he was wounded by a bullet to the head by an Armenian sniper, while on a combat mission. The bullet passed through the entire head, entering from the left and exiting via the right temple. As a result, Zakiyev has completely lost his eyesight. After a long rehabilitation he returned to the sport, but as a Paralympian.
The country sent a team of 24 athletes in six sports including in judo, athletics, powerlifting, swimming, shooting and archery to the Rio Games, where our heroes claimed 11 medals.
With one gold, eight silver and two bronze, Azerbaijan was ranked 33rd in the medal table.
For 11 athletes Paralympics were first experience. Compared to the London 2012 Olympic Games, the national Para team won one medal less, but in London only seven athletes won medals, while in Rio eight athletes took medals home.
Moreover, for the first time Azerbaijan was represented by five women in the Olympics, who won four medals.
Two national athletes broke a record. Irada Aliyeva in the javelin with a score of 42.58 meters, updated Paralympic record, while Elena Ciobanu in the women's 100 meters (11.71) repeated the European record.
Azerbaijan’s only medal was secured by judo fighter Ramil Gasimov in the men’s - 73kg finals, who grabbed the medal after gaining victory over Ukrainian Dmitro Solovey.
The silver medals were taken by swimmer Raman Salei, athlete Elena Chebanu (two silver), athlete Kamil Aliyev, female athlete Irada Aliyeva, male swimmers Dmitry Salei (2 silver) and Raman Salei.
Two bronze medals were grabbed by judoka Rovshan Safarov (-81kg) and athlete Elena Chebanu in 200-meter race.
Overall, Azerbaijani paralympians have shown successful results in percentage of the number of medals won by the number of participating athletes, thus becoming one of the efficient team of the Games.
Having said "goodbye" to Rio now Azerbaijani paralympians are preparing to win more medals in Tokyo.
Amina Nazarli is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @amina_nazarli
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