The goalball competition at Rio 2016 was the sport’s highlight of the year, with the Lithuanian men’s and Turkish women’s teams winning their first Paralympic titles ever after remaining unbeaten throughout the event.
This made it to No. 26 in the International Paralympic Committee’s Top 50 Moments of 2016.
Rio 2016’s top scorer Genrik Pavliukianec hit eight goals in the gold-medal match against the USA to lead his team to a much-celebrated 14-8 victory. "We won all the games but it was not easy and we had to fight in all of them," he said.
"Even the final, despite the big goal difference, it was really difficult to come out with the win."
Teammate Mantas Brazauskis said that the match versus Canada in the quarter-finals was the most difficult one. Lithuania won 5-4 after two overtimes thanks to a goal scored by Pavliukianec.
“I think the Canadians did everything they could to try to win and that game was definitely the biggest challenge we faced in Rio,” he said.
“We stayed motivated because we knew each victory would take us one step closer to the gold medal. And after winning it, we could not believe what had just happened. It was fantastic.”
It was Lithuania’s maiden title, but third Paralympic medal after winning silver at both Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008.
Despite losing the final, the USA, who won bronze at the 2014 World Championships in Espoo, Finland, and silver at the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto, Canada, again showed good form.
“It was wonderful, but it is awful. We had the silver medal won yesterday (after the semi-finals), we played for the gold today [17 September],” said US player John Kusko. “We did not play the game that we wanted to play and they (Lithuania) played the game they wanted.”
In the women’s final, European champions and Paralympic debutants Turkey beat strong rivals and three-time Paralympic silver medallists China 4-1.
Turkey’s Sevda Altunoluk scored the first two goals and teammate Seda Yildiz picked up a third one to gain a 3-0 lead. Fengqing Chen put China on the board again but Altunoluk scored her third goal to give her country the win.
“We knew before we came that we would be the winners,” said Altunoluk.
“It is a big advantage for us, and this young team also plants the seed for the future as well.”
Turkey finished top of Group D after subsequently defeating Canada, China and Australia, and followed that up with victories over Israel in the quarter-finals, the USA in the semi-finals and China in the final to seal the coveted gold.
To find out more about the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2016, visit the dedicated page on the IPC’s website.