For Corinna Cavier and her German teammates, this week’s Sitting Volleyball European Championships in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, will be a chance to see how they fair against the top competition across the continent.
At the Championships, which run from 9-15 October, one men’s and one women’s squad will earn London 2012 Paralympic Games qualification spots.
No German women’s squad has ever qualified for the Paralympic Games, and while dreams of London 2012 may seem far away according to Cavier, they could become a reality after the progress the team has made in the last year.
“Of course it’s a dream, but it will be very, very hard to get there,” Cavier said. “We just want to play the best we can and then see because we don’t know how good we are.”
Cavier insists that Germany’s Pool A opponents, the Netherlands, will be the favourite of the eight women’s teams competing in Rotterdam, due to its home advantage and bronze-medal performance at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics.
Great Britain, which has already qualified for London 2012 as host nation, will also play in Pool A, alongside Russia.
In Pool B, Ukraine, which qualified for London 2012 by finishing in the top three at last year’s World Championships, will line up against Slovenia, Hungary and Finland.
On the men’s side, where 11 teams have been divided into two pools, Great Britain and Bosnia and Herzegovina will compete already knowing that they have qualified for London 2012. Great Britain made it as host nation while Bosnia and Herzegovina earned its place after finishing second to Iran at last year’s World Championships.
Having won silver (2008) and gold (2004) at the last two Paralympic Games, Bosnia and Herzegovina will start as the team to beat and in Pool A, which also consists of Serbia, Croatia, Latvia and Russia.
In Pool B, Great Britain will face Azerbaijan, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Ukraine.
Even for the squads that may feel they are outsiders for a London 2012 spot, the European Championships are bound to show how much the programmes in their respective nations have improved in just the last couple of years.
“We have got spirit and great character,” Cavier said of Germany. “For me, it’s great how we act with our disability.”