The year 2019 marks an important time in goalball as teams aim to secure a spot at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Finland’s women’s team, fresh from their promotion to the A Pool and second place overall at the 2018 European Championships B, have two chances to secure Paralympic qualification.
July sees the Goalball and Judo International Qualifier in Fort Wayne, USA, and then in October the team will compete at the European Championships A in Rostock, Germany.
As the first of these important competitions approach, Finland’s Assistant Coach Maarit Lehto and her team are focussed on the job in hand, with increased weekly training sessions to be in the best shape they can be.
“Our team is strong and we are fully focused on this year’s Championships. We get together about once a month to train as team but everyone in the team also trains individually and with one another,” Lehto said.
The team see Israel, regarded as the best team in Europe, as their biggest and strongest opponents. But with training, conditioning and concentration, they are not daunted by the work ahead with that place at the Paralympics their primary goal.
“We’re focused on Tokyo but take one tournament at a time in order to succeed. The best thing for me as a coach is seeing the players develop individually and as a team and that confidence and belief in winning grow,” Lehto proudly commented.
For those looking to get involved with goalball and as popularity of the sport increases, Finland are just one country that has a dedicated project to encourage and develop female players.
While this is seen as positive, Lehto would like to see more female players take up the sport.
“Finland has a good history of being successful in goalball and this gives me and the team inspiration to continue that success.
“But we only have a few female players, so it can be a challenge. Goalball is a great sport that offers social surroundings and gives confidence in the sighted world.”
The 2019 Judo and Goalball International Qualifier will take place from 2-9 July and will see teams from across the world go for qualification for Tokyo 2020.
The 2019 Goalball European Championships will run from 5-14 October.