The Tokyo Games began on August 24 and conclude Sunday, September 5. A few highlights are featured here, with more to come next week after the final Games.
At Press Time: U.S. Goalball players:
Women Advance to Finals
Asya Miller and Lisa Czechowski have set a record for longevity, competing together in their sixth straight Paralympics. This week they also advanced to the finals against defending champion Turkey after the U.S. team’s victory over Brazil in the semifinals. Both players also won their first Paralympics medals “in the discus at the Sydney Games in 2000.” As noted in a previous Resources for Partners bulletin, goalball is “Designed specifically for blind and visually impaired athletes…” It is one of two sports “in the Paralympics that has no counterpart in the Olympic Games. [Boccia (for competitors with motor skills challenges) is the other].” Read more about goalball and the achievements of these players in The New York Times article: Goalball Teammates Set Paralympics Record for Longevity.
Another current U.S. Goalball team member, Eliana Mason, celebrated her 26th birthday by scoring three goals in the quarter final game against Russia. Teammate Amanda Dennis contributed “a pair of goals” in this phase as well. In the semifinals, Dennis again achieved renown, with two goals in the final 2-1/2 minutes and Mason “put the U.S. up 5-4 in the fifth round.” Read Team USA’s stories: Birthday Girl Eliana Mason Leads U.S. Women’s Goalball Into Semis and U.S. Women’s Goalball Advance to Finals After Double Overtime and Extra Throw Win Over Brazil.
Victors in Quarter Finals, Men Seek Bronze Medal After Defeat in Semifinals
After coming from behind to win against Ukraine in the quarter finals, the USA Men’s Goalball Team was defeated by China in the semifinals. They seek “’…to overcome this bump and bring home the bronze,’” stated Paralympian Calahan Young. Young scored the opening and only goal for Team USA during the game. Among the highlights of their victory in the previous game: “First-time Paralympian …Young fired the opening shot of the overtime period…” Matt Simpson began the scoring with a goal early in the game and Young scored “three consecutive goals…” later on. As team member John Kusku stated, “We never stop believing in each other.” Read more from the United States Association of Blind Athletes: USA Men’s Goalball Advances to Paralympic Games Semifinals with Thrilling Overtime Win. For coverage of the semifinal game from Team USA, read U.S. Men’s Goalball defeated 1-8, Losing to China in the Semis.
Paralympic swimmer Anastasia Pagonis, who was also cited in a previous bulletin, “won a gold medal in the S11 400-meter free style, breaking her own record at 4:54:49 and winning Team USA’s first gold of the game on day two.” The classification of S11 is specific to athletes who are visually impaired with “’low visual acuity and/or no light perception (according to World Para Athletes).’ To even the competition, all S11 athletes wear blackened goggles.” Another swimmer, Gia Pergolini, won a gold medal in the S13 100-meter backstroke. S13 refers to swimmers who are visually impaired as well, with higher visual acuity and/or a broader visual field than those in S11. Check out the item from ABC News: US athletes dominate at Tokyo Paralympics.
Colleen Young and David Henry Abrahams both received medals on the eighth night of the competition, September 1. According to Young, a three-time Paralympian, “Visually impaired swimmers can know how they did in a race by lights on the starting blocks.” Young won two medals in Tokyo, the second a silver in the 100 meter breaststroke SB13. She explains how the lights help: “…there’s one light if you got first, and then two and then three. I can’t see my time, but at least I know my place,” In the men’s competition, 20 year-old David Henry Abrahams earned a silver medal in the 100 meter breaststroke. Abrahams has no central vision, losing his eyesight in eighth grade. He swims at Harvard, where he is majoring in mathematics. Read their stories, from Team USA: Visually Impaired Swimmers Colleen-Young-and-David Henry Abrahams Were Seeing Medals on Night Eight.
Martha Ruether has achieved renown not only as a Paralympic swimmer, but also as a coach for aspiring athletes. The two-time Paralympian advanced to the finals after finishing in the top eight for swimming in the semifinals, also on September 1. She has no vision in her left eye and 20/400 acuity in her right. Ruether recalls how early on she “’Iearned about Paralympic swimming when I went to a camp for visually impaired and blind athletes at State University of New York [SUNY] Brockport. When I swam, they noticed I was kind of solid at it and told my parents about the Paralympics and said I should get involved.’” Ruether currently works as a graduate assistant coach at Malone University in Canton, OH while pursuing a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. Read more about her story from the International Olympic Committee: Paralympics Results: Martha Ruether.