The Australian Belles hope they have inspired a new generation of vision-impaired kids to take up the sport of goalball after posting their best Paralympic result.
The Belles entered Tokyo having not even won a Paralympics match in goalball since Atlanta 1996.
They looked on course for another painful campaign after opening with heavy losses to Israel (11-0) and China (6-0).
But a thrilling 4-3 win over Canada last week kept them alive in the competition, and they secured a maiden quarterfinal berth with a 4-1 win over world champions Russia on Sunday.
Australia’s fairytale bid for a semi-final spot ended on Wednesday when they suffered a 10-6 loss to reigning Paralympic gold medallists Turkey.
It was a brave performance for a team that entered Tokyo as rank underdogs, and the signs are good heading to Paris in 2024.
Australian veterans Meica Horsburgh and Jennifer Blow choked back tears as they announced Tokyo would almost certainly be their last Paralympics.
But they hope the team’s brave performances will inspire generation next.
“It’s taken a long time, and we could have quit. We could have given up many times. But we kept fighting,” Blow told the Seven Network.
“Meica and I probably won’t be in Paris. For us, it’s probably our last Games. But you know what, the future is budding in Australia for goalball.
“I hope we’ve inspired some people to take up the sport, (inspired) some young vision-impaired kids to be the next Aussie Belles.”
Horsburgh took time to reflect following the loss to Turkey.
“I just needed some time for myself,” she said.
“I’ve been doing this a long time. I’m a little bit sad. But I can be proud to walk away because what we did was amazing.
“We made history. We can all be proud.”
The object of goalball is to roll the ball into the opponent’s net while the opposing players try to block the ball with their bodies.
All players wear eye masks to block their vision.
Bells inside the ball help orientate players to the direction of the ball, allowing them to throw their bodies in front of it.