Eight Paralympic Medalists Dot U.S. Goalball Rosters For Parapan American Games

By USABA | July 25, 2019, 6:06 p.m. (ET)
John Kusku throws a ball alongside Tyler Merrin during goalball competition at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016.John Kusku, pictured above at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016, will represent Team USA at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru.

The United States will send a seasoned group of goalball athletes, sprinkled with a few rising stars, to Lima, Peru, to compete at the 2019 Parapan American Games next month. Two-thirds of the men’s and women’s goalball rosters include medalists from the Paralympic Games Rio 2016.

For the U.S. men’s goalball team, the Parapan Am Games represent the final opportunity to qualify for the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. The team will need to finish on the top step of the podium to secure their ticket to Tokyo next year.

Four returning members from the silver-medal winning team that competed in Rio will lead the charge in Lima. They include three-time Paralympian (and two-time Paralympic medalist) Tyler Merren (Coral Springs, Florida), two-time Paralympian Daryl Walker (Jacksonville, Florida), John Kusku (Commerce Township, Michigan) and Matt Simpson (Smyrna, Georgia). They will be joined by Josh Welborn (Birmingham, Alabama) and Calahan Young (Irwin, Pennsylvania), who were members of the U.S. squad that finished fifth at the recent IBSA Goalball International Qualifier in Fort Wayne, Ind.

“I am thrilled beyond words to put on the red, white and blue again,” said Simpson. “We’ve got a mission to accomplish in Lima and I’m honored to be a part of the team. We’ve got a lot of great goalball to play in the next year.”

At the helm of the U.S. men’s goalball team in Lima will be newly-appointed interim head coach Keith Young (Jacksonville, Florida). Young has served as goalball coach for Florida United the past two years and has also coached the 2018 United States Association of Blind Athletes’ youth national champions from the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, where he has been a physical education and health teacher for the past 10 years.

“Being named the interim USA men’s national team head coach has been a big honor for me to serve these amazing athletes,” Young said. “The team chosen for the 2019 Parapan American Games have quickly bought in and are refocused on qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.”

The six-member U.S. women’s goalball team qualified their quota spot at the 2020 Paralympic Games with a silver-medal performance at the recent IBSA Goalball Qualifier. They will be led by coach Jake Czechowski and boast four members of the 2016 bronze medal team from the Rio Paralympic Games: five-time Paralympian and four-time Paralympic medalist Lisa Czechowski (Boonton, New Jersey), two-time Paralympian Amanda Dennis (Peachtree City, Georgia), Eliana Mason (Beaverton, Oregon) and Marybai Huking (Plain City, Utah). Rounding out the team will be Shavon Lockhardt (Brooklyn, New York) and Ali Lawson (Jasper, Georgia).

Said Coach Czechowski, “The Parapan American Games are so valuable to the continued growth of our team. They are set up in the same style as the Paralympic Games, so they provide the opportunity to experience that type of environment. It is also a huge motivation for the athletes to fight for the right to be our region’s goalball champion.”

“Heading into the Parapan American Games, Team USA is coming off our recent success of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics,” added Mason. “We are going to take that success and energy moving forward and aim to take back the title of the Parapan American champions through our hard work.”

At the most recent Parapan American Games held in Toronto, Canada, in 2015, the U.S. goalball teams won two silver medals, both teams losing to Brazil in the finals. The goalball competition at the 2019 Parapan Am Games will be held at the Regional Sports Village of Callao from Aug. 25-31.

All Parapan American Games roster nominations are pending approval of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee.