NewsAmanda Dennis

Amanda Dennis Proves To Be A Force In Goalball Team’s Run To Silver Medal

by Steve Goldberg

Amanda Dennis competes during the women's Goalball semifinal at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 29, 2021 in Chiba, Japan. 

 

It’s not out of the ordinary for a kid just out of high school to want to travel to Europe during the summer. 
It’s less common that their itinerary includes playing in one of the world’s biggest sporting events.
Such was the case for U.S. goalball player Amanda Dennis, who traveled to the Paralympic Games London 2012 before she started college at the University of Georgia. She then celebrated her degree in sports management four years later with a trip to Rio de Janeiro.
After reaching the quarterfinals in London, Dennis and her teammates won the bronze medal in Rio and upgraded that to silver last week in Tokyo. In the Americans’ run to the final match against Turkey, Dennis was having an exceptional tournament, the third leading scorer overall with 13 goals and two penalty goals in six games. A serious injury that she played through in the semifinal, however, would keep her from playing in the gold-medal game.
“Not playing in the final was one of the hardest decisions that had to be made,” she said. “I did everything I could do before that game to be able to try to play, but it wouldn’t have benefitted my team or me to fight something that could have been disastrous both short and long term.” 
Dennis could have been a key contributor in the gold-medal match. Team USA had already defeated Turkey 4-3 in the final match of the preliminary round, Turkey’s lone loss of a tournament in which it steamrolled all other opposition by a collective 27-7 margin. The Americans twice had to come back from two-goal deficits in that early meeting. Dennis scored a penalty shot goal 10 seconds into the second half to draw even and scored the winner with 2:15 to play. She finished with a game-high 46 blocks.
In the six games leading to the final, Dennis led the team with 181 blocks. She intercepted 42 in the semifinal against China. So, missing the final was an extremely tough call to make.
“A lot of mixed emotions about not playing in the final,” she said, “I know at full strength we are fully capable of earning the gold — but I think we’re ultimately very proud of our silver and everything we accomplished in Tokyo.”
Goalball, a sport for the visually impaired where all athletes wear blackout goggles to ensure equity, is essentially the opposite of dodgeball. Three players on each end of the court take turns hurling a nearly three-pound, bell-laden ball towards goals spanning the width of the court. Players must track the ball using only the sound of its bells while throwing their bodies in harm’s way to stop it. 
The game has been on the Paralympic program since 1976 for men and 1984 for women. In 10 Paralympic Games, the U.S. women have medaled seven times, the most of any country. The team was seeking its first gold medal since 2008, but the Tokyo silver medal is its best performance in the years since.

Amanda Dennis competes during the women's Goalball semifinal at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 29, 2021 in Chiba, Japan.

 

Though only 27, Dennis is already a 20-year veteran of the sport, having been introduced to it as a 7-year-old at a BlazeSports camp in Atlanta.
“Every Games so far I’ve had a different journey, it just so happens that Tokyo is my favorite chapter because of so many changes that happened the last five years,” she said. “The training was harder, the emotions were higher, the trust and bonds were strengthened, and our (performance) was fearless and innovative. 
“Silver is an amazing feat, don’t get me wrong — the medal means so much to my team and I — but the journey we took to get here is one of those that we’ll look back on with very fond memories, many laughs and possibly a couple of tears. We didn’t lose the gold, we earned silver.”
With Tokyo behind her, Dennis is now looking ahead to next year’s world championships, where the U.S. will look to win its fifth gold medal and first since 2014. But she’s already started plotting a course for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris and even on to Los Angeles four years later.
“I believe we are capable of really great things these next four years,” she said. “Since I’ve been around, we’ve gained a bronze and a silver Paralympic medal, and we believe the next step for us is gold.
“My long-term goal is to stick around until LA 2028 so that the team can have veteran leadership and so that I have the opportunity to compete with my teammates on our home court on the highest stage. I believe for all of us that will be a really special moment, because we will finally get to share something so cool with all of our family and friends on our own turf.”
Over the near future, she will be living in Berlin with her husband, Michael Feistle, who she married last year. Feistle is a center on the German national goalball team.
“I have known him since I was 17,” Dennis said in a pre-Games interview with the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA), the national governing body for goalball. “We met for the first time at the 2011 IBSA (World Youth Championships) in Colorado Springs. We reconnected over the years and built a really close relationship, and now we’re married.”
Dennis appreciates the team aspect of the sport but knows that her team extends well beyond the court.
“For me, it’s also about all the support that I’ve gotten from family, friends, teammates, coaches and now my husband who is also a two-time Paralympian,” she said. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at without those people who offered me support, pushed me to be everything that I’ve ever wanted.
“The journey is hard, and I think that through all of it the motivation is the people who surround you, the games itself, and the next generation who you serve as a role model to.”


Steve Goldberg is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Team USA logo

Follow Us

General

United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee
  • Accessibility
  • Finance , opens in a new tab
  • Governance , opens in a new tab
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Site Map

© 2024 United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee. All Rights Reserved.