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Bahman Golbarnez: Rio mourns fatal para-cycling crash victim

AAPAAP 18/09/2016
Bahman Golbarnezhad © Getty Images Bahman Golbarnezhad

The international cycling community is in mourning after an athlete died in competition for the first time in Paralympic Games history.

Iranian para-cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad suffered a heart attack following an accident in the men's road race in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday (Sunday NZST).

The 48-year-old lost control at a curve on a high speed descent in the men's C4/C5 event and was hurled into a wall.

Golbarnezhad was showing good vital signs despite serious head trauma when he was treated at the scene.

But he suffered a cardiac arrest as he was rushed to hospital in an ambulance, and although paramedics tried to resuscitate him for 45 minutes, he died.

“Today was our worst nightmare,” International Paralympic Committee (IPC) head of media Craig Spence said.

The two-time Paralympian had been riding for 12 years and Iranian Paralympic Committee secretary general Masoud Ashrafi considered Golbarnezhad the nation’s best.

Golbarnezhad leaves behind a wife and a child, and Mr Ashrafi hoped that his body would be repatriated to Iran as soon as possible for burial.

“He was a family man, he loved his son,” Mr Ashrafi said.

“They are heartbroken.”

The London 2012 Paralympian was competing in his second race at Rio 2016 after finishing 14th in the C4 time trial on Wednesday.

"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," IPC president Sir Philip Craven said.

An investigation into the circumstances of the accident has been launched, but Rio 2016 organisers stressed than none of the Paralympic budget cuts have compromised athlete safety.

“It’s absolutely nonsense to imagine that we could take any risks with the health or competition conditions for athletes in the name of any kind of financial issue,” Rio 2016 executive director of communications Mario Andrada said.

The Iranian flag has been lowered to half-mast in the Paralympic village and a moment of silence will be held during the closing ceremony on Sunday (Monday AEST).

In the same race, Australian rider Alistair Donohue had a dramatic collision with Ukraine’s Yahor Dementyev as the leaders sprinted towards the finish line.

After crashing with less than 100m to go, Donohue got up and ran across the line first, although he did so without his bike as Dementyev lay on the road.

But that initial crossing did not count and he eventually finished fifth. The Ukrainian rider was disqualified for causing the fall.

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