After failing to medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the US women’s goalball team is seeking redemption at Rio 2016.
Helping lead the USA’s return to the Paralympic podium is Amanda Dennis. She said that while not winning a medal at London was “devastating,” it gave her motivation to become a more rounded athlete.
“I didn’t want to just block the ball, I wanted to improve my throw so that I could be a key factor in our team’s goal-scoring ability, and I wanted to also become a better defender,” Dennis said.
Dennis noted that the US women’s gold-medal win at the 2014 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball World Championships is one of her greatest accomplishments. It qualified the team for September’s Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. At the World Championships in Espoo, Finland, Dennis led the USA in scoring with 13 points; teammate Asya Miller added 12, as the US defeated Russia in the finals 3-0.
“We had a goal of qualifying for Rio, but we walked away with so much more than a qualification – we were world champions,” Dennis said.
Now preparing for her second Paralympic Games, Dennis said she is aiming to score her first Paralympic goal at Rio.
“Competing for Team USA is something that I’ve wanted to do since I was 10-years-old,” Dennis said. “We’ve worked very hard since London to come back and show everyone why we were Paralympic champions in Beijing [in 2008].”
Dennis was born with Aniridia, an eye disorder characterised by a complete or partial absence of the coloured part of the eye, and nystagmus, which is fast, uncontrollable movements of the eyes. She said she started playing sports because she wanted to be like her older brother.
“He did a lot of soccer, but when I actually got out there, I really couldn’t see the soccer ball, so I sat in the middle of the field watching everyone else play,” Dennis said. “Soccer left me with such a negative image of sports, that I didn’t really try sports again until I was about seven or eight.”
Her parents sent her to a sports camp for children with visual impairments that was ran by BlazeSports, a non-profit organisation in Atlanta, Georgia.
“I tried many sports there – athletics, cycling, swimming, and judo – but my favourite sport was goalball,” said Dennis, adding that she developed a passion for goalball in the camp aided by Paralympic athletes who acted as role models.
“What’s funny is, some of those athletes are my teammates today,” Dennis said.
Dennis first represented the USA at the age of 15 when she competed at the IBSA Youth World and Student Games Championships in Colorado Springs. From there, she was invited to a USA women’s goalball training camp.
“From 2009 on, my goal was always to reach the London 2012 Paralympic Games, so I had three years to prepare myself,” she said.
Dennis competed in her first international tournament at the Malmo Lady Intercup, followed by the 2011 Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she was an auxiliary player. But her role on the US national team has changed.
“In 2012, after all of our training camps and tournaments, I was finally selected to compete for Team USA at the London 2012 Paralympic Games,” Dennis said. “To date, it is one of my greatest highlights as an athlete.”
That may change at Rio.
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.