Ukraine goalball send shockwaves at Tokyo 2020 Paralympics
Date: August 26, 2021
Ukraine produced the surprise result of day two at Tokyo 2020 on their Paralympic debut on Thursday (26 August) as they gained payback for their European Championships final defeat at the hands of Germany by thrashing Johannes Guenther’s side 11-5.
Ukraine’s goals were shared between two players, Rodion Zhyhalin and Vasyl Oliinyk, as they took advantage of gaps in the German’s play, particularly in the second half.
For Germany, having won their opener against Turkey, this was a disappointing setback with Oliver Hoerauf admitting they were found wanting:
“We were slow offensively and chose the wrong options but also conceded some poor goals especially from giving away penalties.”
In a role reversal of the Rio 2016 Paralympic semi-final, USA came out on top against Brazil in the men’s competition, winning 8-6 in a thriller.
One of two USA debutants, Calahan Young netted four times, earning his first win over the illustrious opponents who had also beaten them in their last meeting, at the Toronto 2019 Parapan American Games final.
“I started playing youth goalball 13 years ago so to finally be able to compete on the world stage against my Brazilian peers and help my team to the win, I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Young said.
The first draw of Tokyo 2020 came in an entertaining match between Lithuania and Algeria in men’s group A.
Again Samir Belhouchat was the star for Algeria, with no-one else yet to score for the side. This is the 46-year-old’s third Paralympic Games having competed in javelin at London 2012.
It seemed as if the defending champions were in for a shock but a late Marius Zibolis goal secured their first point of the competition, bringing the score to 7-7.
Klison Mapreni was in outstanding form as Belgium thrashed China 10-3, scoring eight times to ensure the Bulls made the perfect start as they look to build on their 2018 World Championships silver.
Bruno Vanhove was also on the scoresheet, days after being Belgium’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony and saw his brother Arne make his Paralympic debut with Tom making up the trio of siblings.
Understandably, this filled him with pride, especially having to juggle the demands of sport and a full-time job. “To be able to combine the two and play goalball at the highest level in the Paralympics and it was amazing to be given the opportunity to be our country’s flag-bearer.
“I can’t ask for much more as I also have my two brothers in the team with me which is a really nice story and I’m pleased with what we have done today.”
Japan, Brazil and the USA all have three points each in group A, whilst in group B Belgium, Ukraine and Germany share the same haul.
Despite failing to score in the second half, Irina Arestova’s opening period hat-trick saw the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) claim consecutive wins in the women’s competition after edging past China 4-3.
Fengging Chen fired home with seconds left but it was too little too late for Qun Tang’s side.
Russia sit atop group C with six points thanks to Thursday’s win.
Defending champions Turkey claimed a mercy win by half-time by beating Paralympic debutants Egypt 12-2, earning a second successive win in the process.
While sisters Sevda and Sevtap Altunoluk shared nine goals, teenagers Fatma Gul Guler and Reyhan Yilmaz impressed again, showing that Turkey’s winning legacy is being continued.
Guler insisted there was no pressure in carrying on the work of their fellow countrywomen and they in-fact relished the opportunity.
“It’s a big responsibility to win here but we are very excited to show that we can be the future.”
Turkey lead group D with six points, followed by the USA who will play their second game tomorrow aiming to double their three points.
A four goal haul from Canada’s Emma Reinke helped record her side an impressive 6-2 victory against Israel, bouncing back from their loss to RPC on Wednesday (26 August).
Canada and Israel share three points each in group C.
Four more days of group play remain in goalball at Tokyo 2020, with the quarter-finals taking place on 31 August.