Lisa Czechowski has competed in the last five Paralympic Games, winning three medals in goalball and one in the discus. She has also added four world championship medals to her collection. Find out what has motivated Lisa during the pandemic, what living at the U.S. Paralympic Training Site in Fort Wayne means to her, and more in this Q&A:
Q: How were you first exposed to goalball?
A: I was exposed to goalball in high school by an adaptive physical education teacher from the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. At the time I was involved with mainstream sports and had no interest in adaptive sports. After some time, I was finally convinced to attend a goalball practice at the West Orange Community Center. When I finally saw the sport in person, my eyes were opened to the vision that I never had. I met goalball athletes that had varying degrees of vision and were successful students and professionals. At this practice, I learned the basics of goalball and fell in love with it. My life has forever been changed in so many wonderful ways because of that one practice. Thank you to those who did not give up on me and have inspired me to be the athlete I am today.
Q: What obstacles have you faced on your journey?
A: Injuries are a part of all sports and I have had my fair share. Between broken bones, ligament tears, and other assorted bumps, bruises, and sprains, I have had to work my way back from injury many times. These setbacks have taught me that no matter how many times I get knocked down, I will always get up. Our coach says “pressure is a privilege” and I have found myself in many high-pressure games. These moments have taught me that I can rise to the occasion when needed to.
Q: Do you have a typical warm-up routine and is there any music to prepare for a game?
A: When warming up for a game or practice I typically complete a number of stretches and dynamic movements. I always plan a good amount of time to complete this warm-up as it takes time to get my body moving. With regards to music, I like to listen to anything that is upbeat like pop or rock.
Q: What from your career are you most proud of?
A: There are so many amazing moments that come to mind. Being a part of the 2008 Paralympic Team that beat host-country China to win the gold medal is one of the top moments for sure. I also think it is pretty cool to have earned Paralympic medals in two different sports (discus in 2000, goalball in 2004,2008,2016). I am really proud to say that I am the only goalball athlete to take part in two resident goalball programs (2004 in Colorado Springs and 2017-present in Fort Wayne, Ind.).
Q: How have you managed to stay driven and focused with COVID-19?
A: I have continued to stay motivated through this pandemic because of my daily drive to be the best goalball athlete I am capable of being. I strive for perfection in training sessions and at goalball practice. Having the Paralympics postponed a year only makes me more prepared to compete in Tokyo.
Q: You have accomplished so much in your goalball career. How can you further your success in the sport?
A: Although I have been able to achieve success in my athletic career, I am still very hungry to win another Paralympic gold medal. I work hard at every training session to help our team improve and be the best in the world. Striving for excellence is not something that only happens every four years. It is something we live every day.
Q: How has living at the U.S. Paralympic Training Site in Fort Wayne positively impacted your mindset for goalball?
A: Moving to Fort Wayne to be a part of the resident program at Turnstone Center has allowed me to focus on becoming a better all-around goalball player. Having daily access to an elite goalball coach, strength and conditioning coach, athletic training services, nutrition, sports psychology, and a goalball court with the same style of surface we compete on at the Paralympic Games has given me all the tools to achieve success.
Q: Where do you see yourself after goalball?
A: After my competitive career has ended I see myself taking on a coaching role in goalball. I enjoy teaching children and adults about the sport of goalball and other adaptive sports opportunities.
Q: Do you have a favorite athlete?
A: I like any athlete who has overcome adversity and become a positive role model for their sport. There are several Paralympic athletes that have been mentors to me along my journey as an elite athlete and I love them all in different ways.
Q: Do you have a favorite cheat food?
A: Ice cream.
Q: What is one interesting thing about yourself that not a lot of people know?
A: I really enjoy collecting pins from the different countries when we attend Paralympic and Pan Am Games.