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Triple trouble: Vanhove brothers to take to court at Tokyo 2020

Date: August 24, 2021

Category: Goalball

Tokyo 2020 will be a family affair for the Belgian men’s goalball team as not one or two – but three – Vanhove brothers will be competing alongside each other at the Games for the first time.

Having both represented Belgium at London 2012, Tom and Bruno, the latter of whom will be the flag-bearer for Belgium alongside three-time dressage gold medallist Michele George, will be joined by younger brother Arne.

The trio were all selected on merit as it seems their talents for the sport run in the family.

“The coach doesn’t make decisions based on the family name, it’s done on our strengths as well so it’s a good coincidence,” Tom said.

Tom’s career in goalball has been impressive, starting in 2003. He made his Paralympic debut at London 2012 after seeing Bruno play at Beijing 2008.

“My brother Bruno was selected for the Games and watching him play motivated me to try my best for the national team and perform at a Paralympics myself.

In 2012 the Belgian side finished seventh but he is aware Tokyo will be a different experience.

“This time will be different as fans always create a special atmosphere but it will still be a special occasion, it’s more than just a regular tournament.

The Paralympics could end in double success for Tom as he will find out during the Games if he has been elected to the International Paralympic Committee’s Athletes’ Council.

The only goalball player on the 22-strong shortlist, Vanhove is going for one of six places with voting taking place from 19 August to 3 September.

“The council is a voice for the athletes and it’s very important they are heard and that every sport is developing. I’m 38-years-old and I know I can’t go on forever so I wanted to stay involved in goalball.

Training in a pandemic

The pandemic has not helped Vanhove’s preparations for Tokyo, and he also deals with the demands of working part-time in IT and having a family.

“After one or two months we could get back to government fitness centres and eventually in the summer we came back to national training.

“As we are a small country we have training just once or twice a week and sometimes just a training camp once a month.

Despite this, the Belgian Bulls are one of the top teams heading into Tokyo 2020. In 2018 at the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball World Championships, they bagged bronze after beating reigning Paralympic champions Lithuania.

The Belgian men's goalball team gather together for a huddle
Credit: Karl Nilsson

Making headlines for different reasons

Born two months premature as one of sextuplets –  which became world news – Vanhove suffered from a lack of oxygen at birth meaning his retina did not develop as it should have.

Tom and his teammates – siblings or not – have a close bond and feel ready to take on the challenges of Tokyo 2020 together.

“It’s nice to have your brothers around, but our whole team feels like family.”

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will take place from 24 August – 5 September with goalball beginning on 25 August and concluding on 3 September. All competitions will take place at Makuhari Messe Hall C.

Details of live coverage is available at The full goalball schedule is available here.

By Sam Harris | For IBSA

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