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Anna Sharkey: I’m glad we’ve got world champs first
ANNA Sharkey starts her Paralympic glory quest this evening with the toughest match of the competition, against world champions China.
But the Westcliff -based goalball player would not want it any other way when she steps onto the court at the Copper Box at 6.30pm.
“All the teams are tough at this level but I’m really glad that we have China in our group because they are the current world champions,” said 24-year-old Sharkey, who is partially sighted.
“They are in our group which means we can’t face them again until the quarter-final.
“We have got them as our first game which is actually quite liberating; they are the world champions and we are definitely seen as the underdogs and have nothing to lose. So you can go out there and love playing it.
“If you lose, you have the reassurance that they are likely to come high up in the group anyway, and if you win then you have started the tournament with the most amazing performance that you could hope for.”
Sharkey and her team-mates will make a quick return to the Copper Box tomorrow afternoon when they lock horns with old rivals Finland.
Sunday’s match pits GB against Brazil before they end their Group C campaign against Denmark on Tuesday, September 4.
“We have played Denmark and Finland a lot because they’re European teams,” added Sharkey, who is a physiotherapist at Southend Hospital . “The three of us have this track record where it is much of a muchness as to who wins the game.
“I like that because I know how they play, how I might score, and that makes for a very exciting game.”
But just making the Paralympics is a major achievement for the GB team, who only found out they were definitely going to the Games in March.
A disappointing European championship campaign left their participation in doubt before a decent performance in the test event in December prompted the British Paralympic Association and UK Sport to give the team the nod.
“This year has been like a runaway steam train really of trying to build for the highlight,” said Sharkey, who hails from High Wycombe and whose brother, Michael, is in the men’s goalball team.
“But the Paralaympics are here and that’s enough to send a few butterflies through your tummy.
“In some way’s it’s just like any other goalball tournament against any other teams. You go and do what you do every day
“But there’s this other part of you that thinks ‘oh my goodness, it’s the Paralympics’.
“There’s trepidation and excitement with an underlying tension that this is the top of the mountain in terms of what we have been working towards and somehow you have to get the performance out there while also enjoying this incredible experience.”