Iranian Paralympic cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad died on Saturday after being seriously injured in a crash during the men’s C4-5 road race at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, the International Paralympic Committee confirmed in a statement. Golbarnezhad, who had previously competed in the London Paralympics in 2012, was 48 years old.
The crash occurred around 10:40 a.m. local time on the first section of the Grumari circuit, a treacherous mountainside stretch of road that also made up part of the road race course at the Rio Olympics. This is not the same stretch of road that led to a crash during the women’s road race at last month’s games, which left Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten with serious spine and head injuries. That part of the route was scrapped for the Paralympics.
Golbarnezhad, Iran’s only cyclist at the Paralympics, was treated at the scene before suffering cardiac arrest on his way to the hospital. The cyclist was pronounced dead shortly after arrival, according to IPC’s statement.
“This is truly heartbreaking 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 of Iran,” IPC’s President Sir Philip Carven said on Saturday. “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.”
Our thoughts are with the friends, family and teammates of Team Iran's inspirational cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad.
— U.S. Olympic Team (@TeamUSA) September 17, 2016
The head of world cycling’s governing body also mourned the loss.
“I am devastated to hear about the death of Iranian rider Bahman Golbarnezhad,” UCI President Brian Cookson said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with his family and friends, and the NPC of Iran to whom we offer our most sincere condolences.”
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Iran's Bahman Golbarnezhad, who tragically died after a crash in today's C4-5 road race.
— British Cycling (@BritishCycling) September 17, 2016
In a show of respect to Golbarnezhad, officials lowered the Paralympic and Iranian flags at Paralympic Village to half-mast. Officials also said the Paralympic flag set to fly during Sunday’s finals in sitting volleyball between Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Rio Centro venue will also be at half-staff.
Additionally, organizers have planned a moment of silence at the Closing Ceremonies on Sunday to honor Golbarnezhad, who appears to be the first Paralympian ever to die during an event. (There are two recorded instances of athletes dying in-competition at the Olympics, including Portuguese marathon runner Francisco Lazaro, who died at the 1912 Games in Stockholm, and Danish cyclist Knut Jensen, who died at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Both succumbed to heat exhaustion.)
Paralympic officials have said they plan to investigate Golbarnezhad’s crash.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s C4-5 road race, which is for athletes who have lower limb impairments, continued on as planned after Golbarnezhad’s deadly crash. Daniel Abraham Gebru won gold in two hours and 13 minutes and eight seconds, while Brazil’s Lauro Cesar Chaman and Italy’s Andrea Tarlao earned the silver and bronze, respectively, crossing the line 38 seconds later.