Austria, Finland, and a team of Belgian and Dutch players, alongside sport managers and coaches, have arrived in Novi Sad, Serbia, for the 2016 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships C-Pool and training camp, which get underway on Monday (22 February).
The training camp will include seven players from the European women’s team, who will practice alongside the C-Pool teams and participate in education sessions throughout the week.
The competition and camp is being held in collaboration with the organisers of the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games and Agitos Foundation, as a component of the recently announced Actualising the Dream project.
Actualising the Dream features a series of workshops and grants for equipment to improve winter sport around the world as part of the legacy of the next Paralympic Winter Games.
To support the ongoing development of ice sledge hockey a video featuring renowned players was also released, aimed at promoting the sport around the world. The video was produced in partnership with the Foundation for Global Sports Development and can be viewed online.
The activities in Novi Sad begin on Monday with equipment checks and the first practice sessions.
The C-Pool Championships will then be played as a round-robin format with the fixtures determined by the current seeding of each team.
A clash between Austria and Belgium/Netherlands will open competition on Tuesday (23 February). Michael Ossimitz, named best goaltender at the 2015 World Championships B-Pool despite his team being relegated, will lead Austria out.
Belgium and the Netherlands have joined forces to develop sledge hockey in their countries, with the team featuring seven Belgians and two Dutch players.
Anti-doping sessions for each team will take place on Tuesday evening.
Finland and Belgium/Netherlands then meet on Wednesday (24 February). Several workshops for sport managers, and athlete and coaches lectures will run alongside the action, including how to develop ice sledge hockey and snow sports within countries.
There will also be a presentation from the PyeongChang 2018 Organising Committee, before sport managers hear about the Agitos Foundation’s Grant Support Programme which supports para-sport development projects.
The final match will take place on Thursday (25 February), where Finland face Austria for the first time since their loss during the qualifier for the B-Pool Worlds in 2015.
The three-game series saw a tantalising one-all draw after two matches, with Austria taking the decider 2-1.
Five Finnish players remain from that tournament; forwards Aki Alestalo and Markku Hirvela, defenders Harri Kangastie and Jani Roponen, and goaltender Timo Karko.
In addition to Ossimitz, Austria will field six of the same players, including defender Thomas Schilcher who provided the assist to the goal that put Finland out of the B-Pool Worlds.
The workshops and lectures also wrap up on Thursday with representatives of the Serbian government joining the athletes, coaches and sport managers for lunch.
As well as receiving education and training, the gold medallist from the C-Pool Worlds will be promoted to the B-Pool for 2017, giving them a chance to qualify for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games. The top three finishers from the B-Pool will then compete at the Qualification Tournament for the next Paralympic Winter Games that same year.