Photo: @ParaVolley/Twitter

Photo: @ParaVolley/Twitter

At 8’1″, he’s the tallest person in Iran. He’s the Paralympics’ biggest star. And his play is giant at the net, even though he’s sitting down.

Today, Morteza Mehrzad, 28, plays sitting volleyball for the Iranian national team. He went from being someone that people stared at in bewilderment to the country’s fastest rising athlete.

In a sport where wingspan and height make a huge difference at the four-foot net, Mehrzad was highly recruited to help his country win a gold medal in Rio. That’s why in March, he officially joined the team after being groomed by coaches in the sport.

Born with acromegaly (a hormonal disorder) Mehrzad was north of six feet tall before he was 16. At that time, he fell off his bike and sustained a pelvis injury, which caused his right leg to be six inches shorter than his left. So, he has to use crutches or a wheelchair to get around.

“We gave him reason to hope, and he wanted it, of course,” his coach told the New York Times. “I will tell you a key word that he used himself. Before he became famous, when he came out of the house, everybody looked at him very strangely. And then now that he’s famous, when he comes out, everyone wants to take a picture. He became a champion.”

He’s a force not to be messed with.

As for men’s sitting volleyball at the Paralympics? Iran has claimed gold or silver in the last seven games. And it looks like they have a larger than life advantage here.