More than 600 athletes, coaches and team staff from 40 countries have begun to arrive in Fort Wayne, USA, for the 2019 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball and Judo International Qualifier aiming to secure places for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Goalball gets underway on Tuesday (2 July) with the first group matches. The quarterfinals and placement games will take place on 8 July followed by the medal matches one day later.
Judo will run from 3-5 July and feature individual and team competitions.
The action from both sports will be shown live on the IBSA Goalball and IBSA Judo Facebook pages as well as IBSA’s YouTube channel.
Schedules and results can be found at www.ibsafortwayne2019.com
Photographs are available on request from email@example.com.
Goalball will take place across two venues – Indiana Tech and the Turnstone Centre for Adults and Children with Disabilities – and will feature 27 men’s and women’s teams. The top two teams in each gender will secure their place at Tokyo 2020.
Both the USA sides open their campaigns on Tuesday with an impressive nine Paralympic medallists on their rosters.
Asya Miller, Lisa Czechowski, Amanda Dennis, Eliana Mason and Marybai Huking feature on the women’s side. Tyler Merren, John Kusku, Joseph Hamilton and Andrew Jenks highlight the men’s.
The men get underway against on Ukraine at 12:45pm EST at the Turnstone Centre. The Ukrainian team is looking to qualify for their first Paralympic Games after being promoted to the highest division, whilst the US is coming off the back of a silver medal from Rio 2016.
Reigning Paralympic champions Lithuania have travelled to the US hoping to secure their tickets to Tokyo. A fourth place finish at the 2018 World Championships was not enough and after Fort Wayne 2019, only one more chance remains via the European Championships in Rostock, Germany, in October. They also have a new coach in Valdas Gecevičius.
"The team has really changed. The trainer is strict, demanding, aware of what he wants,” player Mantas Panovas said. “I think this is very important for the team. I think the team's atmosphere has changed. The coach came from a team sport and it feels like it. He made the team spirit that was somewhat lacking in the past. It's fun and good. I think it happened in a timely manner.”
London 2012 Paralympic gold medallists Finland are also in the hunt for a top two finish in the men’s as well as Beijing 2008 winners China.
Relative newcomers Argentina return to the court after their World Championships debut last year, hoping to show signs of improvement amost exactly 12 months on.
Canada, Czech Republic, Greece, South Korea, Poland, Spain, Sweden and Turkey round off the men’s field.
In the women’s the US team, a podium finisher from Rio 2016 with bronze, begin their pool play at 3:15pm on Tuesday against Denmark. The Danes are the third-most decorated country at a Paralympic Games with four medals, including one gold. The opening game will be played at Indiana Tech.
The USA’s Miller who, with more than two decades experience is one of her country’s most experienced athletes, said: “It is our goal to qualify for Tokyo 2020. As well as to win the tournament. And then prepare for the next Paralympics.”
Canada are aiming to avenge a fourth place finish at the 2018 Worlds. They are in Fort Wayne as the second most decorated team at the Paralympic Games with five medals including two golds.
“We are focused on a top two finish [in Fort Wayne] and know that there will be no easy game and we will have to be ready for all our opponents,” Canadian coach Trent Farebrother said. “We have a strong offensive player in Emma Reinke who scored an impressive 24 goals at last year’s Championships and we also have the addition at the back of Amy Burk. This is complimented by a strong defence.”
China add to the depth of the field as the silver medallists from the last three Paralympic Games.
Other nations in the women’s tournament are Australia, China, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Israel, South Korea, Spain and Ukraine.
Judoka will be able to use their results from Fort Wayne towards their place in the world rankings. These determine which athletes get to the compete at the Paralympic Games.
A series of new world champions will line-up, fresh from the 2018 IBSA Judo World Championships in Odivelas, Portugal, in November and the season-opening Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan in May.
Fans could be treated to the latest meeting of China’s world champion Hongyu Wang and Italy’s Carolina Costa in the women’s over 70kg.
In Odivelas Wang overcame Italy’s Carolina Costa for gold. The pair faced off again in Baku but this time it was Costa who emerged victorious.
In the women’s up to 70kg Brazil’s Alana Martins won her first world title in November as Mexican Paralympic champion Lenia Ruvalcaba settled for bronze. The pair once again highlight the entries in Fort Wayne.
A quality competition is also expected in the women’s up to 57kg as three podium finishers from the Worlds take to the mat. Turkish world champion Zeynep Celik, Japan’s silver medallist Junko Hirose and China’s Zhilian Lin, a bronze medal winner, will compete.
In the men’s, Great Britain’s Chris Skelley will have to come down from celebrating taking the World No.1 spot in Baku. He could meet Georgian world champion Zviad Gogotchuri in the men’s up to 100kg on 4 July. The USA will be represented by Pan American silver medallist Benjamin Goodrich, who is looking forward to the latest chapter in his rivalry with Skelley:
“We always have a grind match. He is a great guy and a great athlete but if I just fight my match and don’t let him get settled I have a great feeling about how Indiana will go […] what more could an US athlete ask for more than to fight and represent this nation on our countries Independence Day!”
South Korea’s world title holder Jung Min Lee is taking every opportunity to fight in the men’s up to 81kg. However France’s Nathan Petit will want to capitalise on a bronze-medal-winning debut in Odivelas.
The 2019 IBSA Goalball and Judo International Qualifier runs from 2-9 July. Goalball will be held at the Turnstone Centre and Indiana Tech and will run throughout.
Judo will be contested at the Grand Wayne Convention Centre with individual competitions taking place on 3 and 4 July, followed by team competitions on 5 July.