Pajulahti Games kick-starts the important Paralympic qualification year in goalball

Jarno Mattila & Miika Honkanen

The 9th international Pajulahti Games will be organised in the Pajulahti Olympic and Paralympic Training Center on 18–20 of January. There will be seven sports in the Games: goalball, sitting volleyball, showdown, judo, athletics, powerlifting and alpine skiing. There will be almost 400 participants in the event.

In goalball, year 2019 will be very important for both the Finnish men's and women's team as there will be two chances to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games: Paralympic Qualification Tournament in Fort Wayne, USA in the Summer and the European Championships in Rostock, Germany on October.

Pajulahti Games will be a great start for this important year as it offers high quality matches for both teams. In women’s tournament Finland will meet the reigning World Champion Russia and two high caliber European teams Denmark and Great Britain. In men’s tournament the hosts will play against the Czech Republic, South Korea and the Paralympic gold medallists Lithuania.

– Very high quality opponents. Lithuania and the Czechs are very familiar to us and we met the Koreans in Madrid last year as well. Then we managed to win with a few goal margin (9–5), but I think South Korea is a very strong team. They showed their quality in the Asian Championships last year where they beat Japan to win bronze medal, says Jarkko Pokkinen, the head coach of the Finnish men’s national team.

Finnish men’s team will be divided in two in the Pajulahti Games. Finland White consists of Erkki Miinala, Jarno Mattila, Markus Tihumäki and Joni Ylönen. In Finland Blue the players are Ville Montonen, Ehsan Zoveidavi, Eetu Eronen and Miika Honkanen.

Jarno Mattila, one of the most prolific goalball players of the decade, ended his international career in 2017, but now he is back in the team. For this one tournament, at least, says Pokkinen. Ehsan Zoveidavi has been waiting for long for the Finnish citizenship as he moved from Iran to Finland in 2014. He has already proved his Finnish language skills and has lived in Finland continuosly over four years so the Finnish team is confident he will be able to play for Finland in the important tournaments later this year.

Both Finnish men’s and women’s national teams still have two chances to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. There are two spots available in the Fort Wayne Qualification Tournament on 28.6.–10.7. and one more spot in the European Championships in Rostock on 5.–14.10.

– We think it is a tough but realistic aim to qualify. We don’t need other teams to fail, it will be perfectly enough for our team to play as we know we can to reach the spot to Tokyo, says Jarkko Pokkinen.

Pajulahti Games goalball tournament will be played on 18–20 of January. On Friday 18th and Saturday 19th the five teams in both men’s and women’s tournament will play a round robin and on Saturday evening the teams that finished 4th and 5th will play a qualification match for the Sunday morning bronze match against the team that finished 3rd in round robin. The teams that finished 1st and 2nd will play in the gold match on Sunday.

The international Pajulahti Games 2019, Pajulahti Olympics and Paralympic Training Center 18–20 of January

Sports

  • Goalball – international tournament for men and women on 18–20.1. in the Pajulahti Sports Hall
  • Sitting volleyball – international tournament for women on 18–20.1. in the ball game hall of the Pajulahti main building
  • Showdown – international tournament for men and women on 18–20.1. in the 2nd floor class rooms of the Pajulahti main building
  • Judo – international Special Needs Judo tournament for men and women on Saturday 19th of January at 9.30–14.00 in the Nikula Hall
  • Alpine skiing – international Special Olympics competition for men and women in slalom (at 11am) and giant slalom (3pm) on Saturday 19th of January in Messilä
  • Powerlifting – open Finnish national championships in parapowerlifting on Saturdaty 19th of January at 2pm in the Dance Studio of the Pajulahti main building
  • Athletics – open Finnish national indoor championships in para athletics on Sunday 20th of January at 12.00–15.00 in the Pajulahti Hall

More detailed schedules for sportswww.pajulahtigames.fi/en