Team USA is officially sending both goalball teams to Tokyo.
The men secured their place at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Thursday, topping Canada 6-4 in the semifinals at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019.
“Words can’t even describe this victory. It’s been three years in the making,” said Josh Welborn (Birmingham, Alabama), who led the team in scoring with four goals. “We’ve had our shortcomings but it’s just absolutely amazing to see the perseverance and willingness of this team to improve. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Three-time Paralympian Tyler Merren (Coral Springs, Florida) contributed two goals to help the Americans rout the Canadians in the Villa Deportiva Regional de Callao on Thursday.
“It’s what we came here for. We had a couple of penalties but we were able to keep them off the board, come away with a victory, and it feels so good,” Merren said. “We knew that Canada had some good firepower but we just stuck with our strategy and it paid off for today.”
Coach Keith Young said that every member of the team contributed to the win on Thursday.
“It feels great for those athletes who put it on the line this tournament. There was never talks of pressure, it was all about just being focused on the game plan and being there for our teammates,” Young said. “The guys on our side, they really put it all out there. The Canadian team committed some errors and we were able to capitalize on them.”
The men have logged an undefeated record so far in Lima, earning wins in all five of their matchups. With Thursday’s victory, they will join the women’s goalball team in Tokyo next year, who qualified earlier this summer by winning silver at the 2019 IBSA Goalball and Judo International Qualifier.
The men now face Brazil in the gold-medal match on Saturday, August 31.
“After I was done screaming my lungs out after the game was over, I told my team that we don’t come just to make it to Tokyo. We come for it all,” Welborn said. “We just have to win one more game and we’re going to attack it with just as much aggression, if not more, than today.”