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.”