Brazil’s goalball players reflect on Rio 2016

The Brazilian men’s team took bronze, whilst the women’s finished fourth at Latin America’s first Paralympic Games. 09 Dec 2016
Simone Rocha and Ana Carolina Custodio (BRA) compete against USA in Goalball

Simone Rocha BRA (front) and Ana Carolina Custodio BRA compete during the Goalball Women's Preliminary Group C match between the United States of America and Brazil at Future Arena.

ⒸAl Tielemans for OIS/IOC
By Rosanna Haroutounian | For the IPC

Both the Brazilian men’s and women’s goalball teams competed for Paralympic bronze on home soil last September before thousands of local noisy fans who gathered at the Future Arena.

But whilst the men’ climbed onto their second consecutive Paralympic podium following a 6-5 victory over Sweden, the women failed to win their first medal ever after losing 3-2 to the USA.

Now that the dust has settled in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s goalball players reflected on one of the most exciting competitions in Paralympic goalball.

“The Brazilian warmth made all the difference for me,” said Brazilian female goalball player Victoria Amorim.

The 19-year-old admitted hearing the fans scream her name was one of the most unforgettable moments of the Paralympic Games.

“The thrill of having friends and family cheering for me up close was a great incentive for my good performance,” she said.

The Brazilian women’s team had a strong start in the competition, winning three of four matches in the group stage. They went on to defeat Ukraine 10-0 in the quarter-finals, but then lost in the semi-finals to China, who had gone undefeated up to that point in the competition.

That left Brazil to compete for the bronze medal against USA, who had just been handed a crushing 11-1 defeat by Turkey.

In a rematch of the Toronto 2015 2015 Parapan American Games goalball final, the USA took revenge from that game and beat Brazil in a close 3-2 victory.

Whilst the team’s goal was to reach the top of the podium, Amorim says the team still came away with a sense of accomplishment.

“The team struggled hard, and we managed to get in an unexpected position after all these years,” she said. “The lesson I bring today is that there is no impossibility for us Paralympic athletes.

“The next big challenge for us is the 2018 World Championships, where we will have to win our place for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.”

At the same time, the Brazilian men’s goalball team was in its own battle for the bronze medal against 2008 Paralympic bronze medallists Sweden. The hosts remained undefeated until the semi-final match against USA, when they suffered a 10-1 defeat.

The bronze medal match was one of the most nail-biting of the competition.

Sweden had scored four goals by the time Brazil scored its first in the second half. They quickly equalized the score, but the Swedish team then scored a fifth goal towards the end of the match. With just 15 seconds to go, Brazil scored again to tie the score 5-5.

Overtime was needed to determine the winner, and Leomon Moreno played the role of the hero as he scored Brazil’s winning-goal.

“It tastes like gold. In London [2012] nobody heard a crowd like this, chanting for us all the time,” said Moreno.

“Even when we were losing by four goals they kept chanting 'I do believe'. That gave us all we needed for the comeback.”

Looking back, teammate Alexsander Celente said winning the bronze medal with his family cheering in the stands was his favourite moment of the Paralympics.

“My personal goal has been achieved – finishing the competition with the feeling of accomplishment by giving my maximum every time I was asked,” said Celente.

“The biggest lesson I learned was that I should never give up. Play until the last second with full intensity.”