Goalball at the Parapan Am Games
Goalball Sport Preview
The most successful goalball program in the world is ready for the challenge posed by the upcoming Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile. For the U.S. goalball men’s and women’s teams, the Parapan American Games Santiago 2023 is the final gateway to qualifying for next summer’s Paralympic Games Paris 2024. With the number of teams in the goalball Paralympic program being reduced from 10 in each division at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 to eight in each division for Paris 2024, the current qualification cycle has proved to be more demanding.
Since goalball became a Paralympic sport in 1976, U.S. teams have earned 12 Paralympic medals. The women’s team has won two gold, three silver, and two bronze while the men’s team has won one gold, three silver, and one bronze. The country with the next highest Paralympic medal count has seven. The U.S. goalball teams have placed in the top four at each of the last two Paralympic Games, including three podium finishes. At the Paralympic Games Rio 2016, the U.S. was the only nation to have both of its teams reach the medal stand, with the men winning silver and the women claiming bronze. At the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, the women’s team took home the silver medal while the men’s team finished fourth. The U.S. men’s team has only ever missed one Paralympic Games when they failed to qualify for the Paralympic Games London 2012.
The first Paris 2024 qualifying opportunity was the 2022 IBSA Goalball World Championships last December in Portugal. With qualification spots available to the top two teams in each gender, the U.S. women’s team placed sixth, while the men’s team finished in ninth place.
The most recent qualification event took place in August at the IBSA World Games in England. Needing a first-place finish to qualify for Paris 2024, the U.S. women placed fifth, while the men’s team ended the tournament in eighth place.
The U.S. men’s squad is second among teams in the Americas region, behind only Brazil in the most recent world rankings. Brazil has already secured Paris 2024 qualification by winning last year’s world championships. The U.S. men need to either win gold in Santiago or finish second behind Brazil to punch their ticket to the Paris Games.
The women’s competition in Santiago is shaping up to be more of a challenge with no team in the Americas region having achieved qualification thus far. The U.S. women are the top Americas team in the most recent world ranking, but they finished behind both Brazil and Canada at the IBSA World Games in August. The winner of the 2023 Parapan American Games will be the only Americas region representative for the women’s goalball competition in Paris.
The U.S. is sending an experienced roster of athletes to compete at the Parapan Am Games highlighted by nine Paralympians and seven Paralympic medalists. For the women, five returning members from the silver-medal winning team at Tokyo 2020 will lead the charge in Santiago, including six-time Paralympians Lisa Czechowski (Boonton, New Jersey) and Asya Miller (Portland, Oregon), and three-time Paralympian Amanda Dennis (Peachtree City, Georgia).
On the men’s side, four Paralympians, including two Paralympic medalists, will veteran the team seeking gold. The roster includes four-time Paralympian Tyler Merren (Greenville, Mich.), two-time Paralympian Matt Simpson (Smyrna, Ga.) and 2020 Paralympic teammates Zach Buhler (Huntington, Ind.) and Calahan Young (Pittsburgh, Pa.).
At the last Parapan American Games in 2019, both U.S. teams earned silver medals against Brazil in their respective finals in 2019.
The goalball competition at the 2023 Parapan American Games will be held at the Centro de Deportes paralímpicos of Ñuñoa.
- Final Qualification Opportunity for Paris 2024: The 2023 Parapan American Games present the last qualification opportunity for the Paris Games. The women’s team must finish first in order to qualify for Paris 2024. The men’s team must finish first or play in the gold medal game against Brazil, as the Brazil men’s team has already secured qualification for Paris 2024.
Athletes to Watch:
- Lisa Czechowski & Asya Miller: Czechowski and Miller are both looking to qualify and play in their seventh Paralympic Games in 2024. Both athletes played in the 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2020 Paralympic Games. Czechowski has won five Paralympic medals and Miller has won six Paralympic medals.