Spotlight on the USA Women’s Paralympic Goalball Team

 

With the Paralympics fast approaching we take a closer look at the USA Women’s Goalball Team and assess their chances of taking home the gold medal.

The competition for medals will be fierce in the women’s goalball tournament at this year’s Paralympics.

There are arguably 4 or 5 teams capable of winning gold and while the USA is certainly one of those teams in contention for the top spot, a medal position is by no means a certainty.

They have fantastic international pedigree, a robust defence and boast one of the world’s top players in centre, Amanda Dennis. However they are going to have to score more goals than they have in recent years if they want that coveted gold medal.

 

Paralympic group stages

The draw has been made for the tournament and the United States of America will begin with group matches against; Turkey, Brazil, Egypt, and Japan in Pool Y.

This looks to be a really tough group for the USA women’s team, with 3 of the world’s top 4 teams in the group and the host nation. However with 4 of the 5 teams qualifying for the quarter final stage you would expect Team USA to qualify without too many problems.

The other pool consists of RPC (Paralympic athletes with Russian Roots), Israel, China, Australia, and Canada.

The hope for Team USA will be to avoid China (currently ranked number 2 in the world) in the quarter final, allowing them a slightly easier route to the semi finals and potentially a place on the medal podium.

The USA women’s team Paralympic schedule

All goalball games will be played in the Makuhari Messe, a convention centre outside Tokyo, around 30 minute drive from the Paralympic Village where the team are due to stay.

Group matches begin on 25th August, with the final on 3rd September.

Match

Date

Time (in Tokyo)

Brazil vs United States

Wed 25 August

17:30 – 21:45

United States vs Egypt

Fri 27 August

17:30 – 21:45

Japan vs United States

Sat 28 August 

13:15 – 16:00

United States vs Turkey

Mon 30 August

17:30 – 20:15

Quarterfinals

Wed 1 September

13:15 – 16:15

17:45 – 20:45

Semifinals

Thu 2 September

13:15 – 16:15

17:45 – 20:45

Bronze Medal Match

Fri 3 September

13:15 – 16:15

Gold Medal Match and Victory Ceremony

Fri 3 September

17:45 – 21:55

You can find the full paralympic goalball schedule here.

 

USA record at the Paralympics

Goalball was first introduced as a Paralympic sport back in 1984.

Since then the USA women’s team has won a total of 6 medals and tops the all time medals table in the sport., winning 2 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals over the course of the last 9 games.

At the Rio games the US women’s team took home the bronze medal with China winning silver and Turkey the gold..

Three of the teams that competed in previous Paralympics have been inducted into the United States Association of Blind Athletes Hall of fame:

  • 2008 Women’s Paralympic Goalball Team, Inducted 2020
  • 1988 Women’s Paralympic Goalball Team, Inducted 2013
  • 1984 Women’s Paralympic Goalball Team, Inducted 2009

 

World Championship record

The US team has also performed consistently well at World Championships. Since the first Goalball World Championships in 1982 the USA women’s team again lead the medals table.

Over the last ten tournaments they have won 8 medals. 4 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze. However they failed to get a top four finish at the last tournament in 2018.

 

The Team

Player

Paralympics Medals

World Championship Medals

Lisa Czechowski

Boonton, N.J.

Rio 2016 bronze

Beijing 2008 gold

Athens 2004 silver

Gold 2002

Silver 2010

Bronze 1998; 2006 

Asya Miller

Portland, Oregon

Rio 2016 bronze

Beijing 2008 gold

Athens 2004 silver

Gold  2014

Silver 2010

Bronze 2006

Peachtree City, Georgia

Rio 2016 bronze

Gold 2014

Marybai Huking

Salt Lake City, Utah

Rio 2016 bronze

Gold 2014

Eliana Mason

Beaverton, Oregon

Rio 2016 bronze

Gold 2014

Mindy Cook

Columbus, Ohio

n/a

n/a

Head Coach: Jake Czechowski
Assistant Coach and Team Leader: John Potts
Athletic Trainer: Jennifer Brown

U.S. Women’s Goalball Head Coach Jake Czechowski told the USABA:
“Choosing the final roster for an event as prestigious as the Paralympic Games is never easy, The depth of our player pool made this year’s selection especially difficult. We have great veteran leadership and experience with a combined 14 Paralympic teams. I expect our team to be ready for all the challenges and excitement that the Paralympics provides.

This year, with all the changes and new protocols due to COVID, experience will be that much more valuable. The competition has never been stronger in women’s goalball, and we look forward to taking the court and competing against the best teams in the world.”

 

Who is Team USA’s toughest competition for the medal places?

Only Turkey, China, Brazil are currently ranked above the USA in the IBSA’s goalball world rankings. Japan is one place below them in 5th.

 

Turkey

Turkey, who are currently top of the world rankings, beat the USA 12 : 2 the last time the two teams met in a competitive fixture. This was in the quarter finals of the 2018 world championships.

Brazil went on to win that tournament with Turkey eventually finishing 4th behind Canada and Russia who finished 2nd and 3rd respectively.

Turkey are probably the tournament favourites. While lacking in defense they have an incredible offense. In the 2018 World Championships for example Altunoluk Sevda of Turkey was the tournament’s top scorer with an incredible 46 goals. In contrast the USA’s leading scoring was Amanda Dennis with 8.

 

China

Meanwhile China were the only team to beat the US in paralympic qualifying, after a narrow 5 – 3 defeat in the final of the IBSA qualification event. The USA Women’s Team qualified for Tokyo 2020 by virtue of that second-place finish. The team went on an 8 game unbeaten run before finally losing to China in the final of the tournament.

China would probably be considered 2nd favourites behind Turkey. They did well in qualifying and have consistently done well at more recent Paralympic games, taking home silver in the last 3 tournaments . However they didn’t do well in the 2018 World Championships finishing 10th overall and that will be a concern to them.

 

Russia

Russians and the USA would probably be joint 3rd favourites. The USA certainly have the pedigree on the world stage, whilst the Russians were winners at the last world championships.

Brazil, Japan and Canada can beat anyone on their day and also have a good chance of collecting a medal.

 

Challenging times create a level playing field

In a recent warm up tournament in Lithuania, the U.S. reached the gold-medal final against one of the two squads from Russia, but lost on an 11-6 decision.

With opportunities to compete (or even train) limited over the past year it’s difficult to judge any team’s chances on form or qualification results.

However the team has been training hard over the past year and in a recent interview Amanda Dennis told us that the team feels stronger and better prepared than a year ago. This is both physically and mentally.

New sports psychology techniques have been introduced, alongside the traditional strength and conditioning exercises, helping them to better prepare the athletes for high pressure situations and make more of those all important marginal gains.

This year, perhaps more than in the previous tournaments, those who occupy the medal places are going to be more resilient and show a greater desire than ever before.

Experience will also play a key role, which Team USA have in abundance.

Players like Asya Miller and Lisa Czechowski have been to (and medalled at) multiple international tournaments and they’ll be able to draw on the type of experience that can help this team to go all the way.

 


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Listen to more of our interviews with adaptive sports players and coaches below, including this interview with USA women’s Team co-captain Amanda Dennis.