For the first time in history, a Rwandan will officiate at the sitting volleyball Paralympic games. Erick Gaju has been named to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to officiate at this year’s games to be held from September 9-18 at the Riocentro Pavilion 6 in Rio de Janeiro.
Gaju is among the 18 referees that will handle both the men’s and women’s competitions. The referees were selected by the World Para-volley Referee commission and approved by IPC.
Gaju and Libyan Khalid Salem Shanisha are the only Africans on the list with Gaju.
“This is a great achievement not only to me, but also to my country, I have reason to get excited because I am the first referee from Sub-Saharan Africa to officiate these Paralympics,” said Gaju in an interview with Times Sport yesterday
The 30-year-old referee made his maiden appearance at the 2010 World Sitting volleyball Championships in USA. In 2012, he officiated the quadrennial Intercontinental cup that was staged in Egypt before being selected for 2014 world sitting volleyball championship in Poland.
Previously he also handled the 2016 intercontinental cup that was held in China in which Rwanda participated in.
The achievement comes after Rwanda national women sitting volleyball team also qualified to be Africa’s sole representative at the summer games. Rwanda is in group B alongside the top two world ranked teams, China (1) and USA (2) as well as Iran.
Hosts and world No.4 side Brazil are in Pool A together with Ukraine, which is ranked number 3 in the current world rankings. Paravolley American Games bronze medalists Canada and Russia make-up the rest of the Pool.
In the men’s competition, Pool A is headlined by hosts Brazil, Egypt, Germany and USA while Pool B includes world and European champions Bosnia and Herzegovina, alongside five-time Paralympic gold medalists Iran, the side currently ranked as the world’s No.1, others are Russia and China.