MISSING OUT on Paralympic qualification was a painful experience but goalball player Antonia Bunyan is already relishing a push for Paris, writes Ross Lawson of Sportsbeat.

Just one goal separated the British team from a place at Tokyo, missing out on a Games that are now just a year away having been rescheduled due to the pandemic.

But for York-born Bunyan, the focus is already switching to France and the next scheduled Paralympics in 2024.

And it’s a journey she is relishing before it has even begun, excited at what her team have to offer with an extra year of training under their belts.

“We all know what we have to do, my gut feeling is that we’re going to make it to Paris,” said Bunyan who, as one of 1,100 athletes on UK Sport’s World Class Programme, has access to world-class coaches, support and pioneering technology, funded by The National Lottery.

“I’m so excited by the prospect for that, if we work hard and do everything right, put in the effort and get ourselves into the best position then there’s no reason why we can’t.

“We juggle training and camps with education and jobs, but if we all get the balance right then we’ve got a pretty good chance for 2024.

“It’s not set in stone and you’re not guaranteed anything in sport, but this last cycle and the experiences has made everyone that bit more motivated and determined to prove to ourselves that we can do it.

“We were only one goal off qualifying. It was right at the end that we missed out - we were so unlucky but at the same time, it was really amazing.

“We were one goal away and that’s crazy, if we can do exactly what we did in the last European Championships, then we’ve got a fighting chance.”

As a reserve team, the British squad’s Tokyo chances are not completely gone but Bunyan is already looking into what learnings she can obtain from the Games.

The Paralympic ‘badger’ has a thirst for knowledge and an enthusiasm to match, acutely aware of the fine margins that could be the difference between failure and gold.

And if the 20-year-old can keep that going then the sky really is the limit for a squad improving by the day.

“I think I will watch the Games, I’m a big fan of the Olympics and Paralympics – even before I was in the squad I was paying attention to it as a big sports fan,” she added.

“It will be hard to watch the goalball but I will want to, I want to see where other teams are at and how good they’re looking, and it’s quite interesting to see how teams will adjust to the extra year.

“I’ll certainly be a person who wants to follow everything that’s happening.

“Being part of the World Class Programme is helping us massively with our progress, without that support from the National Lottery, we wouldn’t be exposed to all these different experiences at training camps and competitions.

“It creates the professionalism that we need. It’s so important within that sport, and now we need to push ourselves to be Paralympic champions in the years to come.”

No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £30 million each week for good causes. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/stories/track-to-tokyo and #TNLAthletes #TracktoTokyo.