The US men’s and women’s goalball teams will compete in their first chance at qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the 2018 IBSA Goalball World Championships in Malmö, Sweden, from 3-8 June.
The women are defending champions and have earned medals at eight World Championships since their debut in 1982 at home in Indianapolis where they won gold. The men have five World Championship podium finishes, including a bronze medal from the 2014 World Championships, and are hoping to add another to their collection.
A podium finish for both teams would mean becoming one of the first nations to qualify to compete at Tokyo 2020. It was at the 2014 Worlds that both teams booked their tickets for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games with podium finishes.
Teams, which were announced April 24
, include eight Paralympians who helped their teams medal in Rio de Janeiro. Eliana Mason is one of the Paralympians competing who was also on the 2014 team. “We’re the most prepared we’ve ever been as an entire team,” said Mason. “Training together on the court [daily] has allowed us to become a strong, cohesive unit.”
“I love the week before a major competition,” said US women’s Head Coach Jake Czechowski, “because after two years of training [since Rio], the team is as sharp as it can possibly be. The athletes are hungry, excited and ready to take on the best goalball teams in the world. The other nations have also been working incredibly hard and we will no doubt see the very best performance of which they are capable. The three teams standing on the podium on June 8 will have achieved something very special.”
Though the men are also excited about competing in their first opportunity to qualify for the next Paralympic Games, their approach is calm. “We’re all eager to get to Sweden and get started,” said Head Coach Matthew Boyle. “I know all of the guys are excited to go, but the energy is very calm and reserved in these days leading up to the competition.”
Sixteen men’s teams and 12 women’s teams will compete in the tournament.
The US men will enter round robin play in group B which also includes Brazil, Canada, Germany, Iran, Egypt, Czech Republic and Japan. The women will compete against China, Algeria, Canada, Greece and Brazil in group D.
Games begin on Sunday (3 June) with men facing Brazil and Germany. On the first day of competition, the women will play Greece.
Games will be livestreamed at the official Malmo 2018 website
, where the game schedule can also be found.
Image credit: OIS Photos