Goalball is an unrivalled game of strength, speed and skill. Check out some of the best athletes who will play for the ultimate prize in the original team sport for people with vision impairments at Tokyo 2020.
Amanda Dennis (USA)
Two-time Paralympian Amanda Dennis was a core part of the USA’s return to the Paralympic podium at Rio 2016. Blocking an incredible 40 shots from Brazil in the women’s bronze medal match, Dennis helped her team to a 12th medal. As team captain, she was also the USA’s top scorer at the 2018 World Championships.
Dennis, who is married to German national team player Michael Dennis, started playing goalball right-handed at the age of 7 but switched to her left. As a result, the 27-year-old is uniquely ambidextrous and has been working on her right-handed throw in recent months.
Leomon Moreno (BRA)
Leomon Moreno has led Brazil’s march to the very top of the sport and has become an icon of goalball. From not qualifying for the World Championships in 2010 to gold at the next two editions - and a first Paralympic medal in between - Moreno has been right there.
In 2014 and 2018, he was the top scorer for Brazil’s two world titles. He coped with extreme pressure when his side played in the bronze medal match at their home Paralympics in 2016. Moreno kept his head in the game and scored the winning goal against Sweden to deliver his country a podium finish.
Sevda Altunoluk (TUR)
Serial top scorer Altunoluk has propelled her team to the highest heights of goalball over the past decade. Altunoluk was the leading striker for Turkey’s women when they were promoted to the European A-Pool of goalball in 2012 and they have never looked back.
A hugely effective, powerful throwing style saw her net an impressive 82 goals at Rio 2016 and the 2018 Worlds combined. Three of Turkey’s four goals in the final in 2016 against China came from the hands of the Turkish player, delivering them their first Paralympic medal - a gold. Altunoluk was also part of the squad that bagged their maiden Worlds podium in 2014, following up with silver at the next edition.
Masae Komiya (JPN)
Japan’s leading striker at the 2018 Worlds, Komiya heads into her home Paralympics as one of the most experienced players in the sport.
Komiya was part of the Japanese women’s team that won bronze at the Athens 2004 Paralympics and gold at London 2012. Most recently, Komiya claimed the Asian title along with her teammates in 2019.
Mantas Panovas (LTU)
Lithuania’s talents in goalball have led them to either finish on or challenge for the podium at the last five World Championships. Between 1998 and 2018, they collected two golds, one silver and one bronze and made it into every other bronze medal match.
Panovas has been a crucial part of this journey. In 2018, he netted 36 goals to finish as the second highest top scorer.
©Sari Ben David
Lihi Ben David (ISR)
Ben David defies the laws of physics with her outrageously powerful throwing style. The 25-year-old uses such force to propel the ball across the court that onlookers often wonder how she does not hurt herself.
Israel’s women are in such good form that they can dare to dream of their first Paralympic medal in Tokyo. Their run-in has featured a silver medal at the 2019 European Championships, with Ben David as the tournament’s second top scorer.
©Fort Wayne 2019
Tyler Merren (USA)
Merren will compete at his fourth Paralympic Games at Tokyo 2020, hoping to grab the gold that has so far eluded him.
He was part of the silver-medal winning squad from Rio 2016 where he scored in the final against Lithuania. He also took bronze at Athens 2004. At the World Championships level, Merren was a key part of the USA’s third place podium finish in 2014.
Off the goalball court, Merren is a motivational speaker and trainer. In 2020 he won the prestigious Holman Prize for developing an audio fitness app that provides descriptive information for people with vision impairments.
©Fort Wayne 2019
Ana-Carolina Custodio (BRA)
Custodio’s strikingly unconventional throwing style is what defines the Brazilian’s career to date. But the ‘Brazilian Special’, where Custodio powers the goalball backwards through her legs, is not just a gimmick. It is highly effective.
Custodio was the lead scorer for the women’s team that reached their first World Championships podium with silver in 2018, and a squad that has their maiden Paralympic medal firmly in their sights at Tokyo 2020. They missed out at Rio 2016, beaten in the bronze medal match against the USA by just one goal. Custodio’s unique delivery, perfected over a number of years, is one of the key tools in their arsenal.
Oliver Hoerauf (GER)
Hoerauf is part of a new generation of German players who have turned around their team’s fortunes in recent years.
Languishing in fifth at the 2015 European Championships, Germany finished second in 2017 and claimed the title in 2019 with Hoerauf as their top scorer.
In addition, he was among the best 10 strikers at the 2018 Worlds where Germany finished on the podium for the first time in 28 years, alongside teammate Michael Dennis.
Chunhua Wang (CHN)
Chunhua Wang was China’s top scoring player at the 2019 Asian Championships where the team won silver. Wang was also among the top five best strikers at the 2018 World Championships.
In an attack known for its offensive skills, Wang shines through as one of the best around.