NewsBenjamin Goodrich

After Judo Silver In Tokyo, Ben Goodrich Is Off To Sweden To Get Married

by Karen Price

Ben Goodrich participates in the parade of athletes during the opening ceremony at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 24, 2021 in Tokyo.


Just a few weeks after the recent Paralympics wrapped up in Tokyo, judo silver medalist Ben Goodrich was on a train traveling through Sweden.
After a brief stop home in St. Paul, Minnesota to see family, Goodrich is now onto life post-Tokyo. In the coming months that will mean working hard to learn Swedish, finding work in his new adopted country, getting married to fellow judoka and fiancee Nicolina Pernheim and deciding whether to go for a third Paralympics in 2024.
“Qualifications don’t start until next fall so we have some time to decide before the real important tournaments start,” he said.
If that sounds like a lot, it is.
But after the craziness of the past 18 months, life is actually going to settle down a bit for the continent-hopping two-time Paralympian.
Goodrich first met Pernheim, a fellow visually impaired judoka and three-time Paralympian, at a tournament in Tokyo back in 2017. The two eventually started dating and had a long-distance relationship. Being elite Para judo athletes helped; they’d see each other at competitions in addition to taking advantage of breaks in their schedules.
Goodrich applied for residency in Sweden back in the fall of 2019. While he was awaiting that paperwork to process, however, Covid-19 hit. Trying to train in a contact sport, especially during the early months of the pandemic when most places were under lockdown, wasn’t easy. He left his training base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and went back to Minnesota, then after his passport renewal came through last fall he went to Sweden. Training there was a bit easier, he said, because of the difference in masking mandates and regulations there and in nearby countries.
And Goodrich, 28, had big plans for Tokyo.
“In 2016, my goal at the time was just to make the team,” said Goodrich, who was a high school wrestler and didn’t compete in his first tournament in judo until 2013, after discovering the sport in a physical education elective course at the University of Minnesota.
“I finished school in 2015 and moved to Colorado Springs as soon as I could to make a big push to make the team. My mindset then was a lot different than going into Tokyo. … I was preparing for a medal and to be on the podium rather than just being there. I had experienced being there; now I was looking for something more.”

Ben Goodrich reacts on the podium during the judo men's -100 kg medal ceremony at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 29, 2021 in Tokyo.


Goodrich was ninth in the +100 kg. weight class in Rio. He competed at -100 kg. in Tokyo, and had a bye into the quarterfinals. His first bout was against RPC’s Anatolii Shevchenko, and he won by waza-ari. In the semifinals, he beat Antonio Tenorio da Silva of Brazil by ippon.
The gold-medal match against Great Britain’s Christopher Skelley was an all-out battle, which Skelley won by waza-ari.
“I fought hard, I fought strong,” Goodrich said. “I’ve fought Skelley a lot and only beaten him once, but I feel like every match he and I fight are so close every time. I mean, in worlds in 2018 I broke his nose and his foot. But he’s resilient and he knows his game plan. I knew what he was going to do but I wasn’t able to capitalize enough. He’s a smart player.”
Skelley was similarly complementary of Goodrich after their match.
“I’m pretty relieved because it was an awful fight,” Skelley said following the contest at Tokyo’s iconic Nippon Budokan. “It was just a dogged, horrible fight. Ben Goodrich is a fantastic athlete, and he pushed me all the way.”
There are always new goals, and if Goodrich does continue on the international scene beating Skelley in a rematch is one of them, he said.
In addition to winning the silver medal, Goodrich was also able to experience the Games with Pernheim, to an extent. Although they couldn’t spend much time together between the restrictions in place and their schedules, they were able to be there for each other and support one other.
“Especially with our parents not being able to be there, to have that support system was obviously super cool,” he said.
Whether or not Goodrich continues on and tries to compete in Paris remains to be seen. For now, he plans to hold some kids’ camps in Pernheim’s hometown of Gothenburg, and he’ll continue training with the club team with which he spent time leading up to Tokyo. He and Pernheim, who lost in the repechage of the women’s 63 kg. class, are also getting married in a small family ceremony in Sweden on Jan. 6.
Meanwhile, they’re both waiting to hear from the sport’s governing body about weight classes and other changes that may take place going into Paris in 2024.
“I have a little time before I have to make a full decision,” he said. “We’ll see where life brings us.”

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.