By Madelyn Miles | For IBSA
Heading into the 2019 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball and Judo International Qualifier in Fort Wayne, USA, the Australian women’s goalball team are one of the potential favourites to claim a spot at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
As a group, they are aiming for gold or silver between 2-9 July to secure tickets to their third consecutive Paralympic Games and seventh overall.
Double Paralympian Meica Christensen is a key player in the line-up.
“My ultimate goal is to qualify for Tokyo 2020 and if that doesn’t happen in Fort Wayne, I would like to rank as high as we can,” Christensen said. “I personally want to improve on my defensive centre work. I want to be able to control the game better. If the other team can’t score, they can’t win. I plan on doing this by focusing more on defence in training sessions.”
To help the team achieve its goals, players have court sessions two to three times a week and three to five conditioning sessions, which usually happen within their respective regions in Australia. During their various joint sessions once a month, the team works on offensive drills, passing drills, and more.
While Christensen works hard on her own physical strength, she also works at improving her mental fortitude: “I honestly think it comes down to mental toughness. Training everyday even when you don’t want to. Pushing through the pain to achieve your goals.”
Mind over matter is a vital skill when an athlete works towards a goal. Christensen has made it her mission to use her will power to overcome her physical setbacks. In a game as tough as goalball, where physical strength and endurance as well as tactical prowess are equally important, this comes down to managing fatigue.
Goalball is not a new sport to Christensen - she has been playing for 15 years. When asked what attracted her to the sport she said: “I think the team aspect was a big incentive for me. I liked the idea of a community, playing amongst your friends and being part of a family. The fast pace and pain of the game… Everyone plays on an equal playing field.”
Christensen feels that goalball is developing at a good pace. She admits that the community needs more development, but there are some great programmes. Australia will host the 2019 IBSA Goalball Youth World Championships in September, for example.
“I think there is more interest than there has ever been but we still have a long way to go,” Christensen said. “This has been helped by more advertisement around the Paralympics and disabled sport in general. Australia is really starting to close the gap between able bodied athletes and those with a disability.”
The 2019 IBSA Goalball and Judo International Qualifier will run from 2-9 July in three venues across the city of Fort Wayne. Thirteen women’s and 14 men’s teams will take to the courts hoping to secure qualification for Tokyo 2020.
The competition will be shown live at IBSA Goalball’s Facebook page and IBSA’s YouTube channel. Match schedules are available at the official competition website.