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A new road to Tokyo: Germany return to training with fresh determination

Date: June 25, 2020

Category: Goalball

By the German Paralympic Committee

European goalball champions Germany have returned to training following the enforced break brought on by COVID-19 – and have focused in on their main target: the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

While Oliver Hörauf was fine-tuning his technique by throwing tree trunks and exercising with overturned benches at home, Michael Feistle worked on strength and athleticism – and had no goalball in his hands for three months. 

As odd as the situation has been as a result of the pause, the anticipation of the first joint training session in more than three months was huge among the two international players and their teammates. 

The 2019 European champions met in Germany's Olympic and Paralympic Training Centre in Kienbaum and swore in the new ‘Road to Tokyo’.

“A few guys fell into a small hole due to Corona and the Paralympics postponement. But after the forced break everyone really felt like getting back and was happy that it started again,” said head coach Johannes Günther. 

The past few months have been completely different than planned. The path to Tokyo was carefully timed with, among other things, a training camp in Japan that would have taken place over Easter. 

Then the pandemic and the postponement of Tokyo 2020 happened.

“Goalball was no longer possible without a hall and without teammates. The motto was: keep fit somehow and wait and see what happens next,” explains Feistle. 

But Germany's goalballers made the best of the difficult situation and took the positives out of it.

"A year more preparation is a gift for us," said Feistle, adding: "Compared to other nations, we are on the way up and have not yet reached our potential. We therefore have more time to work on our weaknesses and to become even better.”

That is a strong statement to opponents from other nations, especially world champions Brazil.

At the first reunion in Kienbaum, the team not only trained throws and strength, but also made new, ambitious plans and sharpened their goals with a view to the Paralympics. 

“We all got together and we all agree that if we make good use of the additional year and work meticulously, we will have the chance to be at the top. We fly to Tokyo because we want to win gold,” emphasises Günther. 

At the European Championships at home in Rostock, this determination and belief worked. The Germans went for the title and achieved their goal – even though they won some duels with luck and skill on the way there. 

“We weren't the most offensive at the European Championships, but we were the most copied team. That definitely gave us a lasting boost and we gained maturity, ”says Feistle.

As is well known standing still is a step backwards – and is out of the question for the team. The coaches and players work carefully on their development of their big dream. 

Together with a psychologist, who has been accompanying the team for around a year, they have developed a suitable motto. This is ‘Kaizen’, a Japanese life and work philosophy that communicates the constant quest for improvement. The German team has embodied this for several years now – and the reward for this is to be gold in Japan. 

"We still have room for improvement and want to gain the last percentage points," says Feistle.

This was intensively worked on during the first sessions back on court in Kienbaum. Throws, strength and mental training were alternated on the programme. 

The mandatory final game was not yet possible due to social distancing, but should be possible at the upcoming training camp in Kirchheim in Hesse at the weekend. 

"Then we will focus more on the play," Günther said. 

This marks the start of the new ‘Road to Tokyo’ for the Germans. 

Now they want to pick up speed again. 

“The technique was a bit rusty after a three-month break, but my fingers are really itchy again. We will catch up and work intensively,” Feistle said. 

After all, with a view to the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, the team has a big goal to reach.

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