Finland have announced Jarkko Pokkinen as new head coach for the men’s goalball team, whilst Brazil named Raphael Moreira new table tennis national coach.
Pokkinen will replace Timo Laitinen, who was the head coach for 10 years and led the team to Paralympic gold at London 2012, the European title in 2011 and silver at the 2014 World Championships.
The Finnish Sport Organisation for Persons with Disabilities (VAU), the governing body for Finnish goalball, and Pokkinen agreed on a two-year contract with an option to renew it for another two.
Pokkinen has been working as a basketball coach for 31 years, including teams for players with intellectual disability, and has won several Finnish national leagues, but is new in goalball.
“They contacted me from VAU and asked if I was interested in taking the job. I took some time to consider but eventually decided to take this interesting challenge,” said Pokkinen.
“I have never really taken any pressure on succeeding. My mentality is that success will come as a result of a top level daily work.”
Laitinen will still be in charge at the Pajulahti Games in Lahti, Finland, from 20-22 January. Pokkinen will meet the players for the first time at a training camp in February.
The first major competition Pokkinen will face is the IBSA Goalball European Championships on home soil in Lahti, between 15–23 September.
The Brazilian Paralympic Committee (CPB) also announced that 22-year-old Raphael Moreira will take the position as table tennis national head coach. In 2014, Moreira had been chosen by the Brazilian Table Tennis Confederation to be part of the Fast Track programme, which trains top coaches.
Moreira will be working with Rio 2016 silver medallist Israel Pereira Stroh, Paralympic men’s team class 1-2 champions Iranildo Conceiçao Espindola, Guilherme Marciao da Costa and Aloisio Lima, and Rio 2016 bronze medallist Bruna Costa Alexandre, amongst others, on their preparations for Tokyo 2020.