Jun 23, 2015
USABA Celebrates Olympic Day Across the Nation
Much has changed since the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896. Sporting events have been added to the Olympic program, the Paralympic program was introduced in 1960, there has been evolution of equipment and uniforms. but the ideals remain the same. On June 23, each year, we celebrate those ideals – Fair Play, Perseverance, Respect and Sportsmanship – and promote fitness and well-being.
Each year, over 160 countries participate in more than 1,500 events around the world. In the U.S., the following are only a few of the 700 registered events that have or will take place in the month of June to celebrate Olympic Day. Events range from small gatherings to large, city-wide events.
This year, USABA celebrated Olympic Day throughout the month of June with multiple events across the nation.
We started off the month by rowing on the Charles River with Community Rowing Inc., in current U.S. bid city, Boston, Mass. Olympic Rowers Ellen Minzner (’92 and ’96) and Andrea Thies (’92 and ’96) conducted an Adaptive Rowing Camp for 13 participants from around the country to improve fitness levels and refine technique. The daily program also consisted of educational workshops during recovery time, on Sports Psychology and Nutrition. USABA rowers learned about the importance of positive self-talk and eating the right foods before and after workouts from local experts. At the end of the camp, the group competed in a time trial race to practice learned techniques in a race environment.
The following week, Northwest Association for Blind Athletes (NWABA) in Vancouver, Wash. Partnered with Washington State School for the Blind to compete in a two-day Olympic Experience. Over 30 people who are visually impaired participated in a sprint triathlon June 11-12. Paralympic Swimmer, Jen Butcher (’00 and ’04), attended the celebration and encouraged athletes to follow their passion for sport. “It was wonderful working with these students to help them understand the determination and effort it takes to be an elite athlete,” said Stacey Gibbins, Director of Programs at NWABA.
“NWABA wanted the students to feel success and joy throughout the day, in hopes to start a fire in them to reach further for their wildest dreams. Our mission is to provide life-changing opportunities through sports and physical activity for people who are blind and visually impaired. This event helped us further our mission to this community of students,” said Gibbins.
In Boulder, Colorado, USABA Sports Club partner, Lending Sight, hosted a Track and Field meet on June 18. More than 15 Olympic athletes participated in the celebration and supported the event as volunteers. Deb Conley, Founder of Lending Sight, said her goal in hosting the meet was to create “an inviting atmosphere for people of all ages to meet Olympians and converse about persevering in life and sport.”
The meet was held at Potts Field on the campus of the University of Colorado. It was an “all comers” meet meaning anyone, of any age, could enter to compete. “I have always been struck by the age range of entrants, literally from 2 to 95 years old,” said Road Runners Volunteer Coordinator, John Bridges.
“The volunteers we have are extremely dedicated and loyal to the sport,” Bridges said, speaking of the many Road Runners who help the meet succeed. “Not everyone can make an Olympic team, but we can all be a part of this.” For more photos from the Lending Sight Olympic Day event, click here.
This past weekend, Olympic Day was incorporated into the 2015 USABA Goalball National Championship tournament in Atlanta, Georgia. Between games and during meals, athletes and spectators had the opportunity to meet Jen Demby (Team Handball ’96), Lisa Eager (Team Handball ‘96), and Vincent Martin (Track & Field ’96 and ’04). Additionally, 13 Paralympians were in attendance, playing in the tournament or coaching their respective club teams. “We are very lucky to have so many Paralympians still involved in the sport of goalball,” said John Potts, High Performance Director for USABA.
Today, June 23, the Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta, Georgia will celebrate Olympic Day with swimming relays today during their summer camp programming. Seventeen campers, 6 volunteers and 5 staff will participate in the relays, watch Olympic videos and interview Paralympic athletes. This is the second year CVI has celebrated Olympic Day with their summer camp.
As celebrations continue, we reflect on the Olympic ideals which Pierre de Coubertin and his first International Olympic Committee established 121 years ago. Since the first modern Olympic Games were staged in Athens, Greece, the Olympics have become the premier symbol of fair play, perseverance, respect and sportsmanship. At USABA, we share in the vision to uphold and promote these principles by bringing out the champion in every athlete who is blind and visually impaired.
Jun 12, 2015
USA Goalball Teams Named to Compete in 2015 Parapan American Games
Colorado Springs, Colo. (June 15, 2015) – National Goalball Team Head Coaches Ken Armbruster and Mike Legé have named the Women’s and Men’s teams, respectively, who will represent Team USA at the Parapan American Games in Toronto August 8-15, 2015.
Both teams will play in a round robin tournament format beginning Sunday, August 9 at 12:45 p.m. EST. Games continue throughout the week with semi-final and medal games being held on Friday, August 14 and Saturday, August 15. Click here for the full 2015 Parapan American Games Goalball schedule.
The Women’s Parapan American team is comprised of 6 players, 4 of whom have competed in at least one Paralympic Games. Collectively, the women have appeared in 15 Paralympic Games.
“The team has a great mix of experience, talent and enthusiasm,” said Ken Armbruster. “We have had two successful international tournaments this year, in Finland and Sweden, which provided crucial experience for the young ladies as well as getting the veterans working together.”
The Women’s team will compete against Brazil, Canada, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. “I expect the usual tough competition in Toronto from our Americas rivals, Canada and Brazil, and we look forward to matching up against the first time entries from South and Central America,” said Armbruster.
Jen Armbruster has been to six Paralympic Games and will serve as the team captain for the Women's team in Toronto. She called the Parapan American Games "a great competition to end the 2015 season.” “We are also excited to see some new countries that we have not seen often or at all,” she added.
Although not as seasoned as the Women’s National Team, the Men’s National Team also boasts Paralympic experience. Half of the players named to the Men’s team have competed in at least one Paralympic Games including Donte Mickens who won bronze with the 2004 team in Athens.
“The team was selected based on their playing ability during the last couple of months and the experience each one will bring to the team, said Coach Mike Legé. “This is an experienced team and we are looking to play and perform at our best while in Toronto.”
While most countries are still seeking qualification at the Parapan American Games for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, both U.S. and Brazil’s Men’s and Women’s National Teams have already qualified. The United States was the first country to qualify both teams for Rio. Brazil qualified both teams as the host country. “Having already secured our slot in Rio, this is a great opportunity for the team to try even more combinations on the floor,” said Jen Armbruster. “It also gives us a chance to live together in an atmosphere similar to what we will see at the Paralympic Games.”
Jen Armbruster (Portland, Ore.)
Lisa Czechowski (Tucson, Ariz.)
Amanda Dennis (Peachtree City, Ga.)
Marybai Huking (Plain City, Utah)
Eliana Mason (Beaverton, Ore.)
Asya Miller (Portland, Ore.)
Joseph Hamilton (Sacramento, Calif.)
Andrew Jenks (Wilmington, Del.)
John Kusku (Commerce Township, Mich.)
Donte Mickens (Delray Beach, Fla.)
Matthew Simpson (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Daryl Walker (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Follow the team’s journey to Toronto on Twitter, Facebook and the USABA website.
Jun 05, 2015
Olympic Rowers Teach LTA Development Camp
Olympic Rowers Ellen Minzner (’92 and ’96) and Andrea Thies (’92 and ’96) conducted an Adaptive Rowing Camp to improve fitness levels and refine technique on the Charles River in Boston this week.
In partnership with Community Rowing Inc. (CRI), Minzner and Thies, and a team of stellar coaches and coxswains, USABA hosted the fourth annual Adaptive Rowing Camp May 30 – June 3, 2015. USABA partnered with Community Rowing, Inc. to put together a program that included ‘learn to row’ instruction for beginners, drills and critique for more advanced rowers and informational workshops between sessions on the water.
“This was our first year at Community Rowing in Boston. Their facility is top of the line,” said Ryan Ortiz, Assistant Executive Director at USABA.
Minzner and Thies started the camp by teaching proper grip and positioning and finished the camp with a time trial race. Minzner is the Director of Outreach at CRI and Head Coach of the US Paralympic LTA 4+ team. “The growth of this camp has been impressive over the last few years, and we are proud to be hosting it here at CRI, where we are developing para-rowing at every level, from recreational to Paralympic excellence,” said Minzner.
Four of the 13 participants were Veterans of America’s Armed Forces. USABA works to enhance the lives of disabled Veterans and Service Members and to accelerate their rehabilitation process through sport, physical activity and recreation; as well as assist in the integration of those individuals back into their local community through a program called ‘Mission Vision’.
The participants ranged in level of rowing experience from novice to advanced. Army Veteran Jeff Henson (Heflin, Ala.) is an accomplished cyclist, having attended multiple USABA tandem cycling camps and participated in international races. “I wanted to try a new sport,” said Henson who started out in a barge and was rowing in an eight by the end of the camp.
Oppositely, Navy Veteran Don Balcom has attended multiple USABA rowing camps. “It was significantly colder this year,” joked Balcom. Participants were spoiled with a warm and sunny first day on the Charles River upon arrival but that afternoon, a storm system moved into the Northeast and tested participants’ stamina. Luckily, by the last day of camp, weather had improved and the group enjoyed a sunny send-off.
In addition to improving fitness levels and refining technique, the daily program consisted of educational workshops during recovery time on Sports Psychology and Nutrition. Aymee Suarez spoke on the importance of positive self-talk. Suarez taught the group to be aware of thoughts, shift negative thinking to positive thoughts and practice positive self-talk constantly. Kelsea Gusk spoke on the importance of eating the right foods after work outs and during recovery.
The USABA Development Camp is an important step in the athlete’s overall experience. While about half of the participants were local, half traveled from across the U.S. Natalie McCarthy, Paralympic-hopeful, flew in from Seattle. “I helped with the camp in Oklahoma City last year and really enjoyed it. It was important to me to be here,” said McCarthy. Each participant qualifies for the LTA (legs, trunk and arms) adaptive classification, which includes athletes who are blind and visually impaired, amputees, or people who have a spinal cord injury.
Below is a photo of the group on the Charles River. For more photos, visit the USABA Facebook Page.
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USA Goalball Teams Named to Compete in 2015 Parapan American Games - Colorado Springs, Colo. (June 15, 2015) – National Goalball Team Head Coaches… Read This Story