Over the past few weeks we’ve highlighted a number of athletes who are blind or visually impaired. This coming Tuesday the Paralympics begins for these and many other top competitors – and our coverage continues.
Goalball: What it is and How It’s Played
Referred to as “the most popular team sport for the blind and visually impaired…”, goalball has been part of the Paralympics since the 1976 Toronto Games. The sport has existed, however, since 1946. At that time, Hanz Lorrenzen, from Austria, and Sett Reindle, from Germany, created the game to help keep blinded World War II veterans physically active. It is now played competitively in 112 nations. Goalball involves two teams, each with three players, who play each other across a court. Those competing roll a basketball-sized ball with bells inside “over the opponent’s goal line.” The opposing team tries to block the ball. If and when they do, they take control of the ball and “become the offensive team.” Learn more about how the game is played, including strategy, equipment and how to find a team to join, by checking out the United States Association of Blind Athletes’ web article: Goalball.
This Year’s U.S. Paralympic Goalball Teams
When goalball became part of the Paralympics in 1976, it marked the expansion of “the roster of competitive sports to include opportunities for vision-impaired athletes.” This year six men and six women represent Team USA in Tokyo. The goal: “to go for the double-gold – a sweep no county has managed since 1984, when the U.S. won both goalball events at the Paralympics in New York City.” Following are brief introductions to the U.S. athletes, excerpted from Team USA’s announcement: “Meet the U.S. Paralympic Goalball Teams”.
Zach Buhler: This first-time Paralympian, age 24, comes from Marion, Indiana and has been playing goalball since 2016. He also plays Beep Baseball for the Indy Thunder.
John Kusku: This is the second Paralympics for Michigan native, 37 year-old Kusku, who has won medals in 2016 and in other previous competitions.
Tyler Merren: A fourth-time Paralympian from Coral Springs, Florida, Merren is 37 as well and has won multiple medals. He also founded ReVision Training, which creates audio fitness apps for athletes who are visually impaired.
Matt Simpson: Athlete and recent law school graduate, Simpson, from Smyrna, Georgia, has served on the Athletes Advisory Committee for the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee.
Daryl Walker: This marks the third Paralympics for Walker, who is 39 years old and from Jacksonville, Florida. He has won multiple medals in previous competitions.
Calahan Young: A first timer in the Paralympics, Young, 25 and from Irwin, Pennsylvania, “scored 15 goals at the 2019 Parapen American Games, where Team USA locked up its berth to the Tokyo Paralympics.”
Mindy Cook: A first-time Paralympian, Columbus, Ohio native and graduate of The Ohio State University, Cook began playing goalball in 2017. She participated in two tournaments in 2019, including one where her team “captured gold.”
Lisa Czechowski: This marks the sixth Paralympics appearance for Czechowski, 42, of Boonton, New Jersey. She has won medals in past competitions for goalball and discus.
Amanda Dennis: Dennis began playing goalball as a child in Georgia. Her talents advanced rapidly and she made her “Paralympic debut” at the age of 18 at the 2012 London Games, earning a bronze with her team in 2016. Married last year to German goalball player Michael Feistle, Dennis spent much of her training time in Berlin.
Marybai Huking: Originally a figure skater, Huking switched to goal ball after moving to Utah in the sixth grade. She became the “youngest member of the U.S. women’s national team that won gold” in 2014. This is her second Paralympics.
Eliana Mason: Mason, now 25, was a member of the 2014 U.S. team, at the age of 14, that won the world championships for goalball. In her first Paralympics appearance in 2016 she brought home a bronze medal to Beaverton, Oregon.
Asya Miller: Miller, 41, has appeared in “five consecutive Paralympic Games” (2004-2016), with the trophies to prove it. She also took bronze in Sydney for discus. Miller has competed in four goalball world championships and won three gold medals for powerlifting.