By Alison Thompson | For IBSA
The Iranian men’s goalball team have made a promising start in their bid for gold at the 2019 International Blind Sport Federation (IBSA) Goalball Asia-Pacific Championships in Chiba, Japan.
The event, the last in the calendar for 2019 and a chance to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, began with a 16-10 win for Iran over Thailand on Thursday (5 December).
The Iranian team, along with six other men’s teams, head to Chiba with one eye on the gold medal.
Mohammad Tabe, the Technical Director of the Iranian National Paralympic Committee, and the team are focused on their goal but are realistic of what lies ahead of them.
As the silver medallists from the last Asia-Pacific Championships in 2017 where they lost out to China, in 2018 the team grabbed gold at the Asian Para Games against their rivals.
“The team’s ultimate ambition is to get a Tokyo 2020 slot and stand on the podium. Securing the gold medal last year improved our motivation but needless to say, any winning sets expectations higher for the athletes and the team,” Tabe said.
Going into Chiba 2019 the Iranian team face more strong competition with upcoming games against South Korea, Indonesia, Australia and hosts, Japan.
Tabe explained: “Japan and Australia could be named as the strong teams, and of course, China, considering their presence in the final round of the 2018 Asian Para Games, despite our win against them, could be one of the strongest teams.”
Iran have been training hard to retain their gold medal position and achieve Tokyo 2020 qualification. With games played throughout the year keeping them on their toes and their preparation at a favourable level, Tabe described the team’s readiness for Chiba 2019 as: “desirable, both physical and mental.”
Tabe admits that having the expectation to quality for next year’s Paralympics, not just for his team, but for athletes across all sporting disciplines does bring extra pressure, but is an area that the team work hard to address.
“Goalball helps our athletes in their everyday lives and by taking part in training camps and competitions can overcome social barriers. We try to motivate them by developing short, middle and long term plans which means that any issues are then considered physically or technically in the athletes’ preparation.”
With one win already secured, the Iranian men are clearly a strong team with the hope that their solid preparation will enable them to reach the highest heights.
“Being involved with the sport brings the team exhilaration in daily life and also raises their spirit. We are going to improve our weaknesses and amplify our strengths in Chiba.”
Full results can be found at https://www.gb-aprc.com/schedule
and live coverage is available at IBSA’s YouTube channel.
Round-robin play continues in Chiba on Friday (6 December) as teams go for the title and qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
The semi-finals then take place on Monday (9 December) ahead of the medal matches on Tuesday.