Editor’s Note: Before the Paralympic Games open on September 7, we’ll be introducing you to the U.S. Paralympic athletes who will be competing in visual impairment categories in Rio de Janeiro through a series entitled “Rio-Bound”. Follow along on our website and social media with #riobound. Though the torch was extinguished at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony on Sunday, August 21, we’re counting down the days until it is re-lit for the Paralympic Games! A full schedule of events can be found at www.rio2016.com. You can tune into NBC and NBCSN (broadcast schedule here) or stream Games coverage live online at www.paralympic.org or https://www.dailymotion.com/Paralympics.
Andrew “Andy” Jenks
Birthdate: September 21, 1990
Hometown: Wilmington, Delaware
High School: Brandywine High School (Wilmington, Del.)
College: West Chester University ’13, B.A. Political Science, University of Delaware ’15, M.A. Political Science & International Relations, PhD ’18 (expected graduation), Political Science & International Relations
Motto: “The world is your oyster so shuck it, put some hot sauce on it, and shoot it.”
2015 Parapan American Games – silver
2014 IBSA World Goalball Championships – bronze
2013 Parapan American Games – silver
2010 IBSA Goalball World Championships – 4th
Born with incomplete achromatopsia, a non-progressive and hereditary congenital retinal condition characterized by decreased vision, light sensitivity and partial color blindness, Andy was excited to find a sport that didn’t put him at an automatic disadvantage when he stepped onto the court due to his low vision. Andy was introduced to goalball in 2000 at a sports day sponsored by Delaware Association of Blind Athletes (DABA) at the Bob Carpenter Center at the University of Delaware. There, he met John Mulhern, a member of the U.S. Men’s Goalball Team that had just returned from the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, and Greg Gontaryk – two coaches he credits with teaching him the ‘in’s and out’s’ at a young age.
When he’s not training, Andy likes to read, explore major metropolitan areas, go on brewery tours and taste pretty much anything out there. He plays the saxophone and loves listening to and playing funk/jam music. We recently caught up with Andy to find out what he’s looking forward to most in Rio and how he’s preparing.
USABA: What are you most looking forward to about the Brazilian culture?
AJ: Brazilians are supposedly loud and passionate. They seem like my kind of people.
USABA: What are you most looking forward to about Rio 2016?
AJ: Besides the first time experience of walking into the opening ceremony and being a part of the second largest sporting event in the world, it’s about the people. I’m a social butterfly and interacting with folks from scores of different countries, making new friends, and trading pins and gear is certainly an experience I look forward to. Memories are made at these events and from what I’ve heard about the Olympic experience in Rio, the party is non-stop!
USABA: This will be your first Paralympic Games. How are you feeling?
AJ: I’m really excited to play this game in front of a LOT of people. I’m a musician in addition to being an athlete and still have yet to play goalball in front of more people than I’ve played my horn in front of. Having that many people watching us play will be an incredible feeling.
USABA: How are you preparing for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games?
AJ: I’m trying to stay focused and keep expectations realistic. We’ve done a good job as a team really defining roles and haven’t had too much turnover in our team over the past 4 years. I know who to joke around with before a game to get myself in a good state of mind and who to challenge in the weight room and on the court to help us both get better and ready to perform. Tapering training has meant fewer calories consumed overall, which also translates nicely to beach bodies (minus the occasional bruise from a ball)! We’re taking care of the nicks and bumps. I’m doing my yoga. And overall, tidying up the loose ends both on and off the court prior to the Games.
USABA: Who do you thank for helping you get to this point in your athletic career?
AJ: My parents, for sure. Blind kids can’t drive once they hit 16 and those rides to practices, runs to the airport, checks on my diet and training when I was younger. The support from them both, whether my teams have won or lost, has been instrumental in making me not only the athlete I am today, but also the person I constantly strive to be. Those in the game have certainly helped, whether it be John or Greg who introduced me to the sport, the late Darryl Green who taught me how to throw a curve ball, or the guys I’ve trained with since 2008 – when I started attending national team camps consistently. It was tough not qualifying for London after putting everything I thought I had into that quad but now we’ve really put it all out there, not just as individuals but as a team, and we’re ready to bring some hardware back stateside just in time for my birthday on September 21.