City sledge hockey coach one step closer to Sochi

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Milton Keynes sledge hockey head coach Andy Linton is backing his Great Britain team to reach next year’s Winter Paralympics after they successfully overcame the first qualifying hurdle this month.

Great Britain men’s team kept alive their dreams of reaching Sochi 2014 after claiming bronze in their World Championships Pool B qualification tournament in Japan.

Britain defeated Estonia 3-2 in the third-place play-off match having earlier lost to the host nation and Germany, but thrashed Poland 8-0.

That was enough to earn them a place at the final six-team qualifying tournament in November, with a place at Sochi up for grabs for the top three nations.

And Linton, who has been involved with junior ice hockey in Milton Keynes since the mid-90s, is backing his men to do the business and reach a third Paralympics, having failed to qualify for the last Games in Vancouver.

“It went better than expected,” said the 39-year-old. “I must admit I was surprised at how well we did. It was a great feeling.

“Now we’ve got a fighting chance of going to Russia and I think we can do it. It’s given us lots of confidence and anything is possible. Only losing 3-1 to Japan, who won silver in Vancouver, was still a good result for us.

“But whatever happens I’ll be happy now that we’ve got a bronze medal to show for our efforts. I took over in 2011 and we’ve come a long way from beating beaten 16-0 and 20-0 in games.”

A brace from Gary Farmer and a goal from Tyler Christopher saw Britain power into a 3-0 lead in their all-important game against Estonia, although they were left holding on towards the end.

Germany defeated Japan 3-2 for gold in the final, but Linton is confident that his team will continue to improve during the year and will be ready to challenge for a place in Sochi – despite having to find a new rink to train in because of the planned Planet Ice refurbishment.

“We’ll have to find somewhere else to train but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem,” he said. “Japan was a great experience and it’s given us a chance of completing the story.

“We had hoped to enter a Milton Keynes team into the national league starting in the summer, but that will have to remain on hold until next year.

“The players will still be getting their games in though and will be ready to go again when November comes around.”