The Great Britain under 23s goalball team secured the bronze medal at the European Para Youth Games in Finland, after going up against some of the best teams in Europe over three days of competition.
The tournament got off to a dream start, with a series of impressive wins over Germany, Italy and Hungary to secure a spot in the semi-finals. This saw the young team come up against Germany again in the last four.
Unfortunately, Great Britain were unable to replicate their fantastic performance against the Germans earlier in the competition and lost in a hard-fought match.
Despite the disappointment of not making the final, the team refocused for the the bronze medal match against Romania. The tense game was decided by just one goal as Great Britain ended the competition on the podium with a 3-2 win.
The squad consisted of Joe Roper, Naqib Ahmed, Stuart Hudson, Mo Ahmed, Sam Hoskin and Joshua Murphy. Joe Roper ended the tournament as Great Britain’s top scorer with 24 goals.
The players were supported by Faye Dale (head coach), Alex Bunney (assistant coach) and Krista Van Alten (physio).
Faye said: “We’re incredibly proud to bring to the bronze medal home from the European Para Youth Games.
“For such a young team to show great maturity in their performances throughout this competition, especially to hold out for the win in the bronze medal match, was an outstanding achievement. We’re confident that these players can go far and have more success at other international tournaments.
“It’s vital for their development as elite athletes to step out of their comfort zones and test themselves against goalball players from the across continent.”
Mark Winder, CEO of Goalball UK, spoke after the tournament about how well this team is developing: “The success in these games was a result of a decision by Goalball UK two years ago to focus upon our talent pathway.
“The players were excellent on and off the court and I applaud their dedication, application and attitude. The coaching team led by Faye Dale and supported by Alex Bunney and Krista Van Alten have shown tremendous commitment and this result is testimony to their efforts.
“Our opposition consisted of countries with the most established programmes in the world. This result demonstrates that we have a bright future in the sport and if funding allows our players to continue to develop, we can be competitive against the best teams at senior level in the Paralympics in Paris and Los Angeles.”
The European Paralympic Youth Games was held at the Olympic and Paralympic Training Centre in Pajulahti, Finland. It was one of the largest parasport events of the summer, with thousands of the exceptional young athletes descending on the Nordic country.