With the conclusion of this year’s events in Tokyo, Team USA athletes who are blind or visually impaired scored a number of notable achievements. Following are some recaps:
Goalball: USA Women Win Silver Medal; USA Men Finish Fourth:
The women’s team competed against Turkey in the gold medal match, where they were defeated 9-2. However, as explained in POPSUGAR.FITNESS, in bringing home a silver medal, “it caps off the country’s impressive run in the sport since it first appeared for women in the Paralympics in 1984.” This year’s silver medal marks the women’s team’s seventh Paralympic medal and the 12th medal in USA Goalball history. Team member Lisa Czechowski, summing up her take on the results, stated that “’I’m so very, very proud. It was such a great tournament. Kudos to Turkey; they played a fantastic game. Kudos to our team. We had a fantastic tournament.’” Read more coverage from Team USA: U.S. Women’s Goalball Team Takes the Silver in Friday’s Night’s Final.
In the men’s bronze medal match, the USA team lost to “reigning Paralympic champion Lithuania” by a score of 10-7. Although they “rallied back on several occasions…” the team ultimately could not defeat the opposition’s experienced line up. Even so, Team USA reduced a four goal deficit to one during the second half, according to NBC Sports, with a You Tube clip of the action. They played most of the tournament without veteran goalball athlete Tyler Merren, who was injured. Teammate Matt Simpson explained that, despite the loss of their team captain, “’We were a couple of breaks away from the medal stand and we’re taking that away. Nobody likes to lose but we fought and we got here and losing Tyler like we did, ending up in the top four is a real win for us.’”
For more coverage of both the women’s and men’s goalball teams, check out the coverage from the United States Association of Blind Athletes: USA Women’s Goalball Claims Silver Medal at Tokyo Paralympics; Men Finish Fourth.
Two American Swimmers Win Paralympic Gold Medals: Swimmers Anastasia Pagonis and Gia Pergolini, both 17 years old, “broke world records at the Tokyo Aquatics Center.” In the women’s S11 400 meter freestyle, Pagonis broke her own record, at 4:54:49. She finished over ten seconds before the second place silver medalist. The S11 category is for athletes “with very low visual acuity and/or no perception of light.” Pergolini earned her gold medal for the final of the women’s S13 100 meter backstroke. Earlier that day, she broke the world record for this event, set previously by Italian Carlotta Gilli, at 1:05:05. In the finals, she surpassed that achievement, finishing in 1:04:64. S13 refers to athletes who are visually impaired, with higher visual acuity and/or a larger visual field than the S11 or S12 (which is in the middle) categories. Find out more from NBC Sports coverage: Two 17-year-old swimmers smash world records, win Paralympic gold.
Track and field athlete, Lex Gillette, 37 years old, won the silver medal in Tokyo for the long jump. A five-time Paralympian, Gillette has won a total of five silver medals. The T11/F11 athlete lost his sight completely following retinal detachments in both eyes and ten surgeries. His guiding phrase is “’there’s no need for sight when you have vision’”. Check out his profile from Team USA: Lex Gillette.
Also a track and field athlete, Kym Crosby, 28 years old, competed in her second Paralympics, winning her third bronze medal in this year’s Games. Her classification, T13, is designated for athletes with a moderate visual impairment, according to Wikipedia. Born with albinism, Crosby is legally blind with 20/400 vision. “Her motto is Limited sight, limitless dreams”. For more details, check out her profile from Team USA: Kym Crosby.
Another young Paralympian, sprinter Joel Gomez, competed twice in Tokyo in the T13 category and looks forward to the Games in 2024, 2028 and 2032. Although he did not receive a medal, the 18-year-old looks forward to continuing to progress, expecting that “his best years will be in his late 20s, when his crowning glory could come at the 2032 Summer Paralympics in Brisbane, Australia.” Gomez was born with a rare condition called blue cone monochromacy that causes him to have low vision, color blindness and photophobia.” Following the Paralympics, he headed to West Lafayette, Indiana, to begin his freshman year at Purdue Polytechnic Institute. Read more about Gomez’s record and aspirations from the Times of San Diego: Encinatas Teen Joel Gomez Savored Tokyo Paralympics, Looks to ’24, ’28, ’32 Games.