- Date: 15-06-2020
- Related to: Goalball
By Sam Harris and IBSA
The 2019 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball European Championships A could be seen as a watershed for the Ukrainian men’s team.
After reaching the final to earn a Paralympic debut, they were also competing at their first tournament since being promoted from pool B.
Playing in a group that featured defending champions Lithuania, Turkey, Sweden and Greece, and winning games by impressive margins, Rodion Zhyhalin was the team’s top scorer.
The final proved a step too far as they lost 6-2 to hosts Germany but securing the chance to compete at the highest level of the sport, the Paralympics, was an impressive consolation.
“It was very difficult but I was glad for the whole team and for myself and for everybody who contributed to it,” Zhyhalin said.
But the dream would have to be put on hold for a year. The postponement of Tokyo 2020 to 2021 would not only mean having to wait, but the team were also forced into isolation from each other.
“Everyday we make sure we keep in contact. We also visit our coach for individual training, and I do my individual physical training at home,” Zhyhalin said.
“There’s not much we can do about it, we just have to get on with the best we can.”
Like many players, Zhyhalin came across goalball by chance. A coach visited his school to run a try-out session. But it was not love at first goal.
“In the beginning I was not doing well and I didn’t like it very much but later it became more than just a hobby for me - it transformed to my favourite activity and job.”
The shutdown of goalball across the world has brought home to the Ukrainian how much the sport means to him:
“It is physical preparation, and also my favourite activity and favourite job. I don't know what I would do if I didn't play goalball. It has opened the world to me and shown me things I have never seen before.”
IBSA Goalball recently revealed details of the sport’s return in 2021. Beginning with the European Championships C in April, hosts are currently being evaluated for the European A and B events and Brazil will stage the youth World Championships.
Following Tokyo 2020 from 24 August – 5 September, the next World Championships will take place in Hangzhou, China, in 2022.