Sep 05, 2017

Seven-time Paralympian, Jen Armbruster, Retires from Goalball

Seven-time Paralympian and four-time Paralympic medalist, Jen Armbruster announced her retirement from goalball last Thursday.

“It has been an honor and privilege to represent the United States of America at seven Paralympic Summer Games and a number of World Championships and Pan Am Games,” Armbruster said in an email announcing her retirement.

Initially introduced to the Paralympic sport of goalball in 1990, Armbruster has been a pillar of the U.S. Women’s Goalball program since she began training with the National team shortly after she was introduced to the sport. She competed in her first Paralympic Games in 1992. She was part of Team USA again at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games where the Women’s Team earned bronze on home soil. In 2004, Armbruster helped the team win silver and at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, after she was elected flag bearer by all of the U.S. Paralympic team, Armbruster and her team became Paralympic champions when they beat China in the gold medal game.

“The first and last Games are especially memorable but Beijing definitely stands out,” Armbruster told USABA, reflecting on most impactful moments in her athletic career. “It was so huge to walk into the stadium during the Opening Ceremony as flag bearer, with my dad. And then being part of the team of six ladies and three staff that were after the same goal.”

“Rio was highly emotional too,” said Armbruster. “I know that would probably be my last Games. And again, it was with my dad.”

Her father, Ken Armbruster, served as Head Coach for the U.S. Women’s Goalball Team from 1996 to 2016.

“Jen was a member of every team I coached,” said Ken Armbruster. “The success of both the USA National Team and the Colorado Bandits over the years are a credit to both her athletic talent and leadership. As parents, Linda and I could not be prouder of her many accomplishments both on and off the court.

Assistant Head Coach, Jake Czechowski, shared similar sentiments. “Jen's consistent pursuit of competitive greatness makes her the athlete she is,” said Czechowski. “That fire for success was contagious and has always been a huge key for Team USA. The sport of Goalball is where it is today because of athletes like Jen."

Armbruster has been and will continue to be a driving force in the goalball community. Off the court, Armbruster has a dynamic, positive influence on the lives of many, especially fellow athletes. In addition to being named Team USA’s flag bearer at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, Armbruster was honored as Amateur Athlete of the Year in 2011 by Colorado Hall of Fame. As Inclusive Rec & Fitness Center Coordinator at Portland State University, she helped develop the school’s goalball program and hosts annual tournaments (Cascade Classic) for youth, adult and collegiate teams.

“Sports is important to the growth of every individual,” said Armbruster. “Goalball was an avenue to keep my life together so I have a passion for sharing the sport with others. The sport has given me so much so I want to give back. Even if it’s not goalball, getting kids involved in any team sport is important to me.”

Armbruster also spent time at Lakeshore Foundation in Alabama where she helped develop NightVision, a program for blinded Military Veterans.

“From kids to Military Veterans who thought they wouldn’t be able to be active after losing their sight, I want to help them find what I found in goalball,” said Armbruster. “I’m still in contact with a lot of the kids and adults I’ve worked with. Always asking them what they need – is it strength and conditioning, goalballs? Take it! I want to see them succeed.”

Most recently, as team captain, Armbruster helped her team earn a world title in 2014 which qualified the team for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. In Rio last September, Armbruster was on the court when the buzzer sounded and the U.S. Women had more goals on the scoreboard than their opponent, Brazil, in the bronze medal game. She also coached the U.S. Women’s Youth Goalball Team to silver at the 2015 IBSA World Goalball Championships.

Armbruster’s involvement in the sport won’t stop just because she’s stepping off the competitive court as an athlete though.

“We have a youth tournament coming up in a few weeks,” she said. “I plan to stay involved with the PSU collegiate team and offer opportunities for them to continue to develop. I’ll keep helping local teams too.”

She also looks forward to life outside of sport.

“Ryder (son), is six now. He’s playing t-ball and other activities. I want to refocus on balance. I was fortunate growing up in a military family that my parents were able to be there. I want to be there for Ryder.”

“I’ll always be involved in goalball though. It’s a big part of my life.”











Pictured: Jen Armbruster throwing the goalball during the bronze medal game against Brazil at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. Photo courtesy of Michael Clubine of Wheelchair Sports Federation.

Aug 11, 2017

USABA Tandem Team to Climb America’s Mountain

Kevin Meyers and his pilot, Greg Miller, will pedal their tandem to the top of Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain, this weekend in Colorado Springs as part of the 2nd annual USA Cycling Hill Climb National Championship.

The tandem team met in 2008 at a Learn to Race Cycling Camp hosted by U.S. Association of Blind Athletes. Meyers and Miller raced together and were even part of the National Team talent pool until 2010. Due to personal obligations, Miller was unable to devote the time needed for training and racing with Meyers. Meyers found other pilots but the two have stayed in touch ever since.

“This will be our first national championship event since 2010,” Miller told USABA. “We’re excited!”

Meyers and Miller will mount their tandem at 9,390 feet and ride 12.42 miles at an average grade of 7% gaining 4,725 feet to cross the finish line. Last year, Miller piloted the first tandem to the top of Pikes Peak with Paralympian Clark Rachfal.

“I had a great time racing Pikes Peak with Clark, and love riding in CO,” said Miller. “So it was an easy answer when Kevin brought up the subject while he was staying with us in Knoxville, racing in the Tennessee Paracycling Open in May.”

The two have been training separately, Miller in Tennessee and Meyers in Wisconsin, but Miller has been able to help Meyers prepare by sharing insight from his experience with Rachfal last year.

“I learned to take it easy in the first half of the race,” said Miller. “Because the road gets steadily steeper and of course, the air is thinner. The main lesson was that I learned I could drive a tandem at 14,000 feet, which was not anywhere near a given, since I live at 990 feet above sea level.”

Miller trained on gravel climbs in Tennessee with his wife on their mountain bike tandem.

“We have a two-hour ascent on rough abandoned jeep track which is very similar, effort-wise, to the ascent of Pikes.”

Though Miller is now familiar with what to expect, weather is an unknown – as is Meyers’ adjustment to high altitude. Overall though, the team is looking forward to the challenge.

“This is truly an adventure, with the outcome unknown,” said Miller. “I'm excited to ride with my old friend again, and take on a new challenge with him!”

Aug 09, 2017

Students Awarded 2017 USABA Scholarships

Each year, thanks to the generosity of the I C You Foundation and Arthur & Helen Copeland, USABA offers scholarships to members who exhibit exceptional drive in athletic achievement and educational endeavors. We are proud to present the I C You Foundation Valor Achievement Award to Charles “Chaz” Davis (Grafton, Mass.) and the Arthur E. & Helen Copeland scholarship to Vanessa Coleman (Lakeland, Fla.).

Charles “Chaz” Davis (Grafton, Mass.) lost his vision suddenly to Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) at 19 years old. He was a freshman at the University of Hartford. “I thought my life as I knew it was over,” Davis told USABA. One of his biggest concerns was would he ever be able to run again. “I’d spent my high school years running,” said Davis. “Cross country, track, community races, fundraising runs. I loved the freedom, competition and stress relief running provided me.” He gained weight and dealt with some depression following the diagnosis. When he stepped out and tried running again, he aimed for running at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. He qualified for the Games at Trials in the summer of 2016 and competed in the 1500m and 5000m races in Rio. That winter, Davis won the USABA Marathon National Championships at the California International Marathon and set a new American record. He moved to Denver in 2017 to attend the Colorado Center for the Blind and will begin pursuing a Master’s degree in social work beginning this September at the University of Denver. “My long-term goal is to help others with similar challenges find meaning through their own passions, in the process, getting their life back.” Davis is the recipient of this year’s I C You Foundation Valor Achievement Award Scholarship.

Vanessa Coleman (Lakeland, Fla.) began losing her sight at 9 years old due to Stargardts (or Juvenile Macular Degeneration). Coleman began playing goalball at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind (FSDB) where she competed with the girls’ goalball team for six years. During that time, Coleman was awarded a spot on the All-American team five years in a row and was named Most Valuable Player at the 2016 Youth National Tournament. She was also recently awarded Athlete of the Year by FSDB and St. Johns County/St. Augustine. Coleman represented the U.S. at the IBSA Youth Goalball World Championships this summer in Budapest. “Goalball is not just a sport or recreational activity to me,” Coleman told USABA. “Goalball is a way to express myself and a career I’d like to pursue. Goalball has taught me how to communicate with others, stay focused and the true meaning of commitment.” This Fall, Coleman will be attending SUNY Broome Community College where she will begin courses in their Early Childhood program. She aspires to be a teacher of the visually impaired and coach goalball after graduating. Coleman is receiving this year’s Arthur & Helen Copeland Scholarship.

Congratulations to this year’s USABA scholarship winners! We’re proud of their accomplishments and excited to be part of their athletic and academic journeys.

To learn more about USABA scholarship opportunities, click here.

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