In 1976, the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes took the first team of goalball athletes to represent the United States at the Toronto Paralympics. Branded as Torontolympiad – 1976 Olympiad for the Physically Disabled, the Toronto Games were the first Paralympic Games to include blind athletes. Since 1960, the Paralympic Games have been held in the same year of the Olympic Games, kicking off about two weeks after the Olympic Games closing ceremony.
The U.S. Association of Blind Athletes serves as the national governing body (NGB) for the sport of goalball, meaning we represent the sport as a member of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and oversee the growth and development of the sport while also developing and selecting athletes to represent the U.S. in goalball at the Paralympic Games and other international competitions.
Since 1976, U.S. goalball teams have earned 12 Paralympic Games medals (women: 2 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze; men: 1 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze) and 11 world championship medals (women: 4 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze; men: 1 gold, 2 bronze).
The United States is a top contender in the sport of goalball. The U.S. women have been described as the most successful program in the history of goalball while the men are #1 in overall men’s Paralympic medal count. Most recently, the United States women’s team captured the silver medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and the men’s team participated in the bronze-medal game.
The United States was the only nation to have both goalball teams medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. The last time both U.S. men’s and women’s goalball teams made it to the Paralympic podium in the same Games was 2004. In Athens, U.S. women earned silver while U.S. men earned bronze. The U.S. women beat host-country Brazil in the bronze medal game, finishing behind Turkey and China. The U.S. men medaled for the first time at a Paralympic Games in 12 years winning silver, behind Lithuania.
Both U.S. teams reached the medal round again at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games with the women’s team winning the silver medal and the men’s team placing fourth.
Part of the success seen by the U.S. at recent Paralympic Games stems from the establishment of a full-time resident program with Turnstone Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Developing goalball athletes were invited to apply for the first-ever goalball resident program in the U.S. Athletes were selected and moved to Fort Wayne in October 2015. The resident team trained together 5 days a week, lived together and ate together. The cohesion created a strong team dynamic which ultimately helped them win silver in Rio. Two years later, the resident program opened to female athletes with the first class of resident athletes arriving in October 2017.
The 2023 USABA Goalball National Championships will be held at Turnstone Center Sept. 22-24.