By Alison Thompson | For IBSA
Competition is well underway at the 2019 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball Asia-Pacific Championships in Chiba as Japan play host to the final major event of the year.
For Thailand's women, their first game on Thursday (5 December) saw an 11-3 defeat against 2017 silver medallists China.
However Team Manager Siriwan Jirapotirat and her players remain focused on their upcoming games against Australia, South Korea, and hosts Japan.
“Ultimately, our ambition is for a top three place in the Championships” said a hopeful Jirapotirat.
Competing in Chiba also means an opportunity to quality for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, but that would need a first-place finish.
Jirapotirat does not think that is realistic. Instead the team are targeting on another, more long-term, goal:
“If I’m honest, we don’t expect to qualify for Tokyo 2020, However, we are preparing for the challenge for Paris 2024. Chiba is a great start to that goal where we can focus on our skills”.
With the pressure off compared to other teams, Thailand can focus on building themselves up and improving techniques.
“Our preparation has gone well and we’ve trained for three months in the lead up to the Championships. We’ve also competed in three international competitions this year, all of which brings us to Chiba where we want to focus on building our throwing power and placement technique,” Jirapotriat explained.
Despite having to face who she considers two of the toughest opponents in China and hosts Japan, the women are confident:
“We are very excited about being in Chiba and are looking forward to testing our skills. We have one very strong thrower and we do have a good team chemistry”.
Looking to the future, Jirapotirat is keen to take the women’s team to the next level with access to support and talent.
“Goalball helps improve health, mind and quality of life. As a Manager, I try my best to promote the sport at home and encourage women to get involved by hosting tournaments at the Thali Blind School. This, together with support from the Sports Association for the Blind of Thailand, enable many more blind athletes to get involved and the chance to compete at an international level.”
Thailand had a day off at Chiba 2019 on Friday but will return to face Australia in their next round-robin match on Saturday.
Full results can be found at https://www.gb-aprc.com/schedule
and live coverage is available at IBSA’s YouTube channel.
The semi-finals take place on Monday (9 December) ahead of the medal matches on Tuesday.