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Goalball: The USA is running for the medals in Paris 2024

Date: February 28, 2024

Category: Goalball

The USA men’s Goalball national team got out of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games with a bitter taste. The 4th place left the squad on the doorstep of the podium, losing the bronze medal match with China (8-1).
On the Road to Paris, and one year later after Tokyo, Portugal hosted the 2022 IBSA Goalball World Championships, where the USA finished 9th. Some misfortuned events took place, like the injury of Calahan Young, who also stood out of the squad options for the 2023 IBSA World Games in Birmingham, in which the USA finished 8th.
That path narrowed the chances of the North American team getting the qualification to Paris to one last shot: the Para Pan American Games in Santiago de Chile. The moment of truth came with the semifinals with the northern neighbours from Canada.
With Brazil, the current World Champion and qualified for Paris 2024, already secured in the final of the tournament, the second finalist knew that the Paralympic Games were one victory from a distance.
#Accessibility – The entire USA men’s Goalball team is holding a blue card where the word “qualified” is written after the victory with Canada in the semifinals of the Para Pan American Games in Santiago de Chile.
The USA national head coach, Keith Young, described the feeling of getting the qualification to Paris 2024 as the last possible chance of the Road to Paris.
“Elation is the feeling of qualifying for Paris 2024! We had athletes with injuries prior to the 2022 World Championships and the 2023 IBSA World Games Ranking Tournament, so the team felt strong at the 2023 Para Pans. If I gave any special message to the players before the semifinal? Yes, I told the team that we train harder than Canada and to execute in the moment. Since the 2019 Para Pans, our team has dominated Canada and dominated in every match!”
Work hard rewards
Under these circumstances, what made the difference in the qualification to Paris?
“For our full-time resident athlete programme, I made sure our resident athlete coach did everything in my training plan. I watched the training video and gave specific feedback. The resident athletes also sent me videos of their throwing techniques. Keep up the intensity and volume in our preparation.”
How is Paris 2024 prepared?
“We have planned every week leading up to the Paris Games. Coaches expect the athletes to continue in preparation with volume, intensity, and, most importantly, focus! If an athlete can’t or doesn’t keep up, we will address it immediately and assist the athlete. Whether it’s Goalball specific training or strength and conditioning, our athletes train four or five days a week (sessions range from 1.5 hours to three hours). Training camps are two times per day, with three hours per session.”
Nevertheless, competition is as important as closed-doors work. For that purpose, the USA will participate in some of the international tournaments before Paris 2024.
“So far, we are competing at the 2024 Berlin Nations Cup in March and the 2024 Brazil International in May. We are looking for one more tournament, especially if a Paris Games opponent will be at that tournament. If we can’t find a high-quality international competition, we will contact a team to have a joint training camp.”
The final list of players for Paris 2024 is still a work in progress. “I won’t give a specific list of athletes, but I will say that we have a good mix of veterans and emerging international players. I select the top six players with two alternates in the process and timeframe. I don’t base my selection on the past. The final list is due in July to the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee. We are hoping to have the team named before that to ensure longer preparation time.”
What can people expect from the USA in Paris 2024?
“Our qualification meant that the US Men’s National Goalball Team has taken the first step to achieving the Paralympic Games gold medal. Though this is the first step, we have a lot of work to do from this point on. It also ensures that we will receive funding for our programme and continuity. With placing 4th in the Tokyo Games, we know the anguish of being one place out of the medal stand. Our goal is the gold medal, but we expect to be on the medal stand at the Paris  Games,” summed Keith Young.

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