Pajulahti Games 2017: Israel and Lithuania came on top in the goalball tournament
Israel surprised Russia in the gold match of the Pajulahti Games women’s goalball tournament.
In round robin Israel lost 4–9 to Russia and 0–5 to Great Britain, but managed to improve a lot in decisive matches. In the semifinal Israel beat the Brits 6–2 and in the final they won Russia 9–4.
– A very good game from us as we are just in the beginning of our preparation period. From here we start our run towards the European Championships held here in Pajulahti on September. We are aiming for the podium, said Israeli coach Ariel Fuerte.
Israeli key player was Lihi Ben David who was the top scorer of the tournament with 23 goals in six matches. She threw eight goals against Russia in the gold match.
Host team Finland finished third after beating Great Britain 3–0 in the bronze match. They had lost 0–10 to the Brits in round robin.
– Huge improvement from us after the first match. A solid win in the bronze match without a single mistake, said Finnish coach Heikki Juvonen.
In men’s tournament the Paralympic gold medallist Lithuania came on top after an impressive 8–2 victory over Germany in the final. Lithuania is currently seeking a new head coach as long-time number one Karolis Levickis left his position after Rio triumph. Former assistant coach Adele Markeviciute led the team in Pajulahti.
– Every year there is an important tournament coming, this year it’s the European Championships here in Pajulahti, so of course it would be good to find a new coach quite soon, said Markeviciute who told she won’t be an option for the permanent job.
Finland had a similar situation as two time Paralympic gold medallist (1996 & 2012) Timo Laitinen coached his last match as a leader of Finnish men’s team in Pajulahti. A new coach Jarkko Pokkinen has already been appointed. Pokkinen has no previous experience in goalball but is very experiences basketball coach.
– We were hoping actually that new coach would be “an outsider”, someone who could bring some new perspective to the team. Maybe we haven’t been able to keep up with the other top teams lately, said Erkki Miinala who was the top scorer of the tournament with 34 goals in six matches although Finnish first team sinked to sixth place in Pajulahti.
Full results of the Pajulahti Games goalball tournament: