“We’re not yet qualified, so that’s top on the list. In addition, it is it a very good tournament to check your level as a national team.”
Belgian goalball player Tom Vanhove is hoping for success at July’s IBSA Goalball European Championships A in Kaunas, Lithuania, in order to qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
So far hosts Brazil, Finland and USA – the silver and bronze medallists from the 2014 World Championships – are the only three men’s teams to have confirmed their places for Rio 2016. In Lithuania, only the top ranked team, who have not yet to qualify, will book their place for next year’s Paralympics and Vanhove is keen to be there.
“We’re not yet qualified, so that’s top on the list,” said 30-year-old Vanhove. “In addition, it is it a very good tournament to check your level as a national team.”
The Belgian men’s team have qualified for the last two Paralympic Games, placing seventh at London 2012 and 10th at Beijing 2008.
This July in Kaunas, Belgium have been drawn in Group B alongside Spain, Turkey, Ukraine and world silver medallists Finland, whilst Group B is made up of hosts Lithuania, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Sweden.
Vanhove, who played alongside his brother Bruno at London 2012, admits it is a challenge for the team to stay at the top-level of goalball competition.
“All teams in the A division are very good these days,” said Vanhove, who is training twice a week with the Belgian team, as well as participating in training camps and preparation tournaments in order to prepare.
Belgium are one of 16 teams also competing at May’s IBSA World Games in Seoul, South Korea, and the top two ranked sides at the end of the year, who have yet to qualify after the regional Championships, will secure their places for Rio 2016.
The women’s competition in Lithuania will also feature 10 teams. Pool X is comprised of Russia, Finland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden whilst Turkey, Israel, Ukraine, Spain and Greece make-up Pool Y.
As a result of their performances at last year’s World Championships, the women’s teams of USA, Russia and Turkey have already secured their places at Rio 2016, alongside hosts Brazil. The highest ranked team in the women’s competition, who have yet to qualify for Rio, will also book their place for next year’s Paralympics in Lithuania.