GB goalball hopeful on Paralympic place after test event

By Elizabeth HudsonBBC Paralympic Sports Reporter

The Great Britain women's goalball team hope their display at the weekend's London International Tournament test event will boost their campaign for Olympic Games selection.

A decision on the women's and men's teams' host country slots has been

But despite finishing fifth and last at this weekend's 2012 test event, the women are showing some promising signs.

"We are all positive and hope that we can do enough work to convince the BPA that we are worth a shot," team member Jessica Luke told BBC Sport.

GB pushed the top two teams in the world close at the Handball Arena in the Olympic Park, which will also host next year's Paralympic goalball event, losing 1-0 to world champions and eventual tournament winners China and 5-3 to Beijing gold medallists USA, before a 4-1 loss to Canada.

Britain then suffered a narrow 2-1 loss at the hands of world bronze medallists Sweden in their final game on Sunday to end their chances of a medal.

"The performances against China and the USA definitely gave us a great indication of how we are doing," added Luke.

"We are also using this tournament as an opportunity to experience the venue and feel what it would be like to represent GB at a home Games.

"A lot of work has gone in to get us to this stage but we have to stay focused, train hard and take every opportunity that is given to us and make sure that we do everything we can to compete against these teams next year."

Goalball is the only Paralympic female team sport for blind and visually impaired athletes,external-link and is played by teams of three using a ball with bells inside on a court the size of a volleyball court.

The aim is to score by rolling the ball into the opposition goal, while the opposition attempts to block the ball with their bodies.

Almost uniquely, the game is played in total silence.

GB's last Paralympic appearance was in Sydney in 2000 and, although the women won gold at the 2009 European Championships, both they and the GB men's team struggled at last year's World Championships, finishing 11th and 16th respectively.

But new men's and women's coach Knut Kursawe, who formerly coached the German men's team, and performance director Dawn Newbery believe the women's team are moving in the right direction towards earning a place in London.

"I welcome the fact that both teams have until the end of February to more to show where they are internationally," said Newbery.

"It's not just goalball - there are other Paralympic and Olympic sports who have gone through a similar process. We understand that you want to make sure that any GB team is the best and most competitive they can be.

"The decision will be taken individually on both of our squads and, as performance director, I believe in both squads. We are working very closely with ParalympicsGB staff to ensure we make the best use of their expertise to help us in our programme.

"With the women, we had a team that won gold at the 2009 Europeans but they haven't been consistent since, so we need to see how to reverse that trend and be competitive again. Hopefully that is what we are starting to see on court now."

Kursawe added: "I see this as a motivation for the players on both teams to prove they deserve to be part of the Games and I'm proud of both the men's and women's teams.

"It would be an honour to coach a British team at a home Paralympics and I believe I will do that."

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