More than 600 athletes and staff from 40 countries are in Fort Wayne, USA for the 2019 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball and Judo International Qualifier aiming to secure places for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Goalball gets underway on Tuesday with the first group matches. The quarterfinals and placement games will take place on 8 July followed by the medal matches one day later.
Judo will run from Wednesday to Thursday and will feature individual and team competitions.
Top two goalball teams qualify
Twenty seven men’s and women’s teams will compete in goalball with the top two teams in each gender securing places for Tokyo 2020.
In the men’s competition, reigning Paralympic champions Lithuania are hoping to secure their tickets to Tokyo. A fourth place finish at the 2018 World Championships was not enough and after Fort Wayne only one more chance remains via the European Championships in Rostock, Germany, in October.
Hosts USA will be another team to watch after they won a silver medal at the Rio 2016 Games. The USA plays Ukraine to open the tournament on Tuesday.
Other countries expected to be in the hunt include London 2012 Paralympic gold medallists Finland as well as Beijing 2008 winners China.
Argentina, Canada, Czech Republic, Greece, South Korea, Poland, Spain, Sweden and Turkey round out the men’s field.
USA high hopes in women’s goalball
The USA women’s team, bronze medallists from Rio 2016, will be in action on Tuesday with what’s expected to be a tough match against Denmark. The Danes are the third most decorated country at a Paralympic Games with four medals, including one gold.
Canada are aiming to avenge a fourth place finish at the 2018 Worlds. They are in Fort Wayne as the second most decorated team at the Paralympic Games with five medals including two golds.
“We are focused on a top two finish [in Fort Wayne] and know that there will be no easy game and we will have to be ready for all our opponents,” Canadian coach Trent Farebrother said. “We have a strong offensive player in Emma Reinke who scored an impressive 24 goals at last year’s Championships.”
China add to the depth of the field as the silver medallists from the last three Paralympic Games.
Australia, China, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Israel, South Korea, Spain and Ukraine are also vying for spots.
Judokas will be able to use their results from Fort Wayne towards their place in the world rankings. These determine which athletes get to the compete at the Paralympic Games.
A series of new world champions will line-up, fresh from the 2018 IBSA Judo World Championships in Odivelas, Portugal, in November and the season-opening Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan in May.
Fans could be treated to the latest meeting of China’s world champion Hongyu Wang and Italy’s Carolina Costa in the women’s over 70kg.
In Odivelas, Wang overcame Italy’s Costa for gold. The pair faced off again in Baku but this time it was Costa who emerged victorious.
World Championship rivals square off
In the women’s up to 70kg Brazil’s Alana Martins won her first world title in November as Mexican Paralympic champion Lenia Ruvalcaba settled for bronze. The pair once again highlight the entries in Fort Wayne.
A quality competition is also expected in the women’s up to 57kg as three podium finishers from the Worlds take to the mat. Turkish world champion Zeynep Celik, Japan’s silver medallist Junko Hirose and China’s Zhilian Lin, a bronze medal winner, will compete.
In the men’s, Great Britain’s Chris Skelley will have to come down from celebrating taking the World No.1 spot in Baku. He could meet Georgian world champion Zviad Gogotchuri in the men’s up to 100kg on 4 July.
The USA will be represented by Pan American silver medallist Benjamin Goodrich, who is looking forward to the latest chapter in his rivalry with Skelley.
“We always have a grind match. He is a great guy and a great athlete but if I just fight my match and don’t let him get settled I have a great feeling about how Indiana will go […] what more could an US athlete ask for more than to fight and represent this nation on our country’s Independence Day!”
South Korea’s world title holder Jung Min Lee is taking every opportunity to fight in the men’s up to 81kg. However, France’s Nathan Petit will want to capitalise on a bronze-medal-winning debut in Odivelas.
Schedules and results can be found at www.ibsafortwayne2019.com