John Kusku competes during the men's goalball semifinal at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 29, 2021 in Chiba, Japan.
TOKYO — Thirteen seconds into the men’s goalball semifinal against China on Thursday afternoon, the U.S.’s Calahan Young had scored the opening point.
Head Coach Keith Young, who took over the program in 2019, said it looked like everything was going according to plan.
“I thought we had a really good plan,” he said. “We had scouted out China.”
But after the buzzer rang at the end of the second half at Makuhari Messe Hall that would be the only point the U.S. would score. Finishing down 1-8, China’s dominant defense would push the American men into the bronze medal match the following day.
“Going into the game, we had the mindset that if we’re going to go to the gold medal match, we have to literally fight through the Great Wall of China. They gave us their best, and it showed on the scoreboard,” Daryl Walker said.
Despite giving it their all, nothing was getting past the Chinese. By the end of the first half, the U.S. was down 3-1.
“Look, this is a team that won the gold medal in 2008, after being down four goals to Lithuania. They came back. So we knew they were not going to be a pushover,” Walker added.
China was also the team who beat the American men in Beijing in the semifinal round 4-1.
History was looking like it was repeating itself.
The six-man team — four of whom were on the silver medal squad in Rio: Walker, Tyler Merren, Matt Simpson and John Kusku — were hoping to finish on top of the podium in Tokyo, something they hadn’t done since 1984.