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Sep 22, 2016

U.S. Goalball Program Earns Paralympic Podium Finishes in Rio

Photo by Michael A. Clubine, Wheelchair Sports Federation

U.S. Goalball Program Earns Paralympic Podium Finishes in Rio

U.S. Men’s and Women’s Goalball Teams Finish Paralympic Games on the podium for the first time in 12 years.

RIO DE JANEIRO (September 22, 2016) – After nine days of competition at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, both U.S. Men’s and Women’s Goalball Teams had podium finishes. U.S. Men fought for silver while the U.S. Women earned a well-deserved bronze. The United States was the only nation to have both goalball teams medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games. The last time both U.S. Men’s and Women’s Goalball Teams made it to the podium at the Paralympic Games was 2004. In Athens, the women earned silver while men earned bronze.

“We’re very proud of both Men’s and Women’s teams’ performances in Rio,” said Mark Lucas, United States Association of Blind Athletes Executive Director. “They showed determination and perseverance against the best goalball teams in the world.”

The United States Association of Blind Athletes, a member organization of the United States Olympic Committee, has served as the National Governing Body for the sport of goalball since it was demonstrated at the 1976 Paralympic Games. The game was originally developed in 1946 for blinded WWII Veterans as a way to stay active and adapt to life without eyesight.

U.S. Women finished behind Turkey, who made their Paralympic debut with the highest scorer of the tournament, and China. Though the U.S. Women started the tournament with a loss against host nation, Brazil, they went on to beat defending Paralympic champions, Japan, and finished preliminary play with a 3-1 record. In the quarterfinals knockout round, U.S. Women met rival team, Canada, who eliminated them from competition early in London four years ago. Team USA held the Canadians to no goals in 24 minutes, this time eliminating them from the tournament. After a loss to Turkey, the U.S. Women were placed in the bronze medal game where they evened the score with Brazil, winning 3-2 to finish 3rd in the tournament.

Having not qualified for the London 2012 Paralympic Games and finishing 4th in Beijing, the U.S. Men's Goalball Team needed to show the world they were still strong contenders. Placed in the ‘group of death’ when groups were drawn in May, the U.S. Men were anticipating it would be a difficult journey to the podium. A win against China in the first preliminary game got them going but it was a win against Finland, the defending Paralympic champions, that really fueled their momentum. U.S. Men faced Brazil in the semifinals and won, advancing to the gold medal game. Team USA faced Lithuania, a team in need of only a gold medal to complete their collection that already includes four Paralympic medals (two silver, two bronze). Ultimately, U.S. Men fell to Lithuania but still finished as one of the best goalball teams in the world.

“I’m very proud of this team,” said Head Coach, Mike Legé. “We’ve been through a lot of adversity. We didn’t make the London Games so it was an uphill battle from there, not being able to qualify after Beijing’s fourth place finish.”

Some of the U.S. Men’s Goalball team’s success in Rio can be attributed to the establishment of the first-ever Goalball Resident Program in the U.S. which opened last October. The United States Association of Blind Athletes partnered with Turnstone Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to institute a Goalball Center for Excellence, an established residence where teams from across the U.S. and around the world will visit and train with U.S. teams for a period of time. USABA is already working on the next stage of the plan – a U.S. Women’s Goalball Resident Program.

To schedule an interview with goalball athletes or coaches from the teams, or obtain photos of the teams in Rio, please contact Courtney Patterson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 719-866-3222.

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About U.S. Association of Blind Athletes

Since its founding in 1976, USABA, a community-based organization of the United States Olympic Committee, has reached more than 100,000 blind individuals. Though USABA serves as the National Governing Body for the Paralympic sport of goalball, it has emerged as more than just a world-class trainer of blind athletes – USABA has become a champion of the abilities of Americans who are legally blind. USABA’s mission: to enhance the lives of blind and visually impaired people by providing the opportunity for participation in sports and physical activity. www.usaba.org | Twitter: @USABA | Facebook: United States Association of Blind Athletes


Sep 16, 2016

Rio 2016: U.S. Men’s Goalball Wins Silver in Rio

Rio 2016: U.S. Men’s Goalball Wins Silver in Rio
Friday, September 16, 2016 │ 11:00pm BRT

The U.S. Men’s Goalball team entered this tournament drawn in arguably the most difficult group of the tournament, full of medal contenders. At the end of the tournament, Team USA finishes the tournament with a silver medal, hopeful about the future.

Emerging from the ‘group of death’ with a 2-2 record, U.S. Men survived a quarterfinals knockout round against Germany and beat host nation Brazil in the semifinals for a chance at gold in the finals against Lithuania, a team that boasts medal finishes in the last four Paralympic Games.

It took Lithuania nearly 7 minutes into the first half but they broke through the U.S.’s wall of defense with a fast pitch from Genrik Pavliukuanec. Four more goals from Lithuania followed in the next 3 minutes with the U.S. only returning one – a bounced ball by Andy Jenks. What started as clean back and forth nearly resulted in a mercy until Team USA brought in fresh bodies to keep the team alive in the second half.

In the second half, Lithuania continued to extend their lead with the audience fearing a mercy when the score hit 9-1 with nine minutes left in the game. Substitutions were called and starter, John Kusku, was replaced by first-time Paralympian Matt Simpson. Simpson scored with eight minutes left to keep Team USA alive and ignite a second fire in the rest of the team. Tyler Merren followed with a fast pitch down the middle, bringing the score to 4-10. Lithuania scored again but Jenks returned the favor making the score 5-11 with 6 minutes left.

Team USA made another substitution, bringing in Daryl Walker who scored twice before Lithuania could break through U.S. defense again. In the last two minutes, Lithuania was able to score three more times and the U.S. just once by Joe Hamilton. A final score of 8-14 solidified Team USA’s hard-earned silver medal finish.

“That team is a really good team,” said Simpson. “They’ve been at this game for a really long time. It’s their time. It’s an honor to play against those guys and I couldn’t be happier for them, even though we’re at the wrong end of it.”

Team USA may not have finished on the top of the podium as they had hoped but to get there, the team showed incredible endurance, passion and a defensive strategy different from any other team on the court.

“I’m very proud of this team,” said Legé. “We’ve been through a lot of adversity. We didn’t make the London Games so it was an uphill battle from there, not being able to qualify after Beijing’s fourth place finish.”

With three first-time Paralympians on the team and a relatively new assistant coach, Matthew Boyle, Tokyo looks promising.

“Matt Boyle has done an awesome job putting together a game plan,” said Lege. “He’s the heart of the team and I’m very proud of how he has led this team on and off the court.”

This win qualifies U.S. Men for the 2018 IBSA World Championships in Malmo, Sweden which will be their first opportunity to qualify for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
 

Photo by Joe Kusmoto, Courtesy of USOC


Sep 16, 2016

Rio 2016: U.S. Women’s Goalball Defeats Brazil to Win Bronze in Rio

U.S. Women

Rio 2016: U.S. Women’s Goalball Defeats Brazil to Win Bronze in Rio
Friday, September 16, 2016 │ 4:30pm BRT

U.S. Women began their fight for the Paralympic podium against Brazil, on the first day of competition in Rio. Team USA’s first preliminary game against the host nation resulted in a 7-3 loss with Brazil taking advantage of penalty shots to win the game. But at the bronze medal final, it was Team USA’s turn to take advantage of penalties.

Team USA took the lead from the beginning, scoring on a Brazilian long ball penalty. Minutes later, Jen Armbruster pitched the goalball past Brazil’s right wing to extend their lead, 2-0. Brazil answered by popping the ball over Armbruster to get on the board. At the half, the score was 2-1.

Armbruster, Asya Miller and Amanda Dennis returned to the court in the second half and continued their strategy of patience. Brazil allowed one more penalty shot by Armbruster before they were able to score their second even strength goal to make the score 3-2 with 3 minutes left in the game.

Brazil increased the pace of their play, hoping to tie the score and keep their chance at the Paralympic podium alive, but were unable to break through the U.S. Women’s defense before the final buzzer.
It was a battle of the defenses and Team USA’s was more solid. The team looked much like they did against Canada in the quarterfinals, where they allowed no goals the entire 24 minutes.

“It was fitting that we got it done,” said Armbruster. “It’s great to come back from the loss to Turkey last night - to put that out of our minds and come out here and play the defense we know we needed to play. We were patient, executed the shots we needed to on a couple of those penalty shots and didn’t get flustered when they came within one [point].”

After being eliminated from the competition in the quarterfinals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the U.S. have been hungry for redemption since qualifying for the 2016 Paralympic Games and the 2014 IBSA World Goalball Championships. This win is redemptive, especially for Armbruster, who will retire after Rio.

"It’s good to go home with a medal for sure,” said Armbruster. “But it means a lot to go out representing our country on the medal stand.”

While this is another medal to add to the collection for veterans Armbruster and Miller, this is a first Paralympic medal for Dennis, who made her Paralympic debut at the London 2012 Games.

“It means so much,” said Dennis. “We’ve put in four years of hard work. After we got devastated in London, we were all committed to getting onto the podium. It just means so much.”

This is Team USA’s sixth Paralympic medal in women’s goalball. The U.S. will be the only nation with two teams on the medal stand at the victory ceremony tonight in Rio. U.S. Men will play for gold against Lithuania at 8:00pm BRT.

 Photo by Michael A. Clubine, Wheelchair Sports Federation


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