US women’s goalball aim to stay on top

The defending world champions expect a battle from Brazil and Canada at the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games. 08 Aug 2015
Goalball - Asya Miller

USA's Asya Miller throws during one of her team's games at London 2012.

By Rosanna Haroutounian | For the IPC

“We also need to prioritise team cohesiveness.”

The US women's goalball team are ready to take hits from challengers Brazil and Canada at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, which began on Friday (7 August).

After winning the 2014 Goalball World Championships in Espoo, Finland, the US added to their status as the top team in the Americas region. They also beat Brazil at the 2011 Parapan Am Games edition in Guadalajara, Mexico, while Canada claimed bronze. But with Team Canada playing at home for Toronto 2015 and Brazil hosting next year’s Paralympic Games, the USA know their opponents will have extra incentive to knock them out.

“We want to get as much experience playing Brazil before we see them in Brazil, and the same if Canada qualifies,” said USA’s Asya Miller, whose team earned a qualification slot to Rio 2016 after winning the World Championships.

“We will use the same strategy that we have been employing, of playing defense first. Then offense will come,” she said.

Miller scored 12 goals at the World Championships, en route to being named the Most Valuable Player in the women’s tournament.

Rio 2016 would be Miller’s fifth Paralympics. She is one Team USA will turn to, as the squad consists of a mix of veterans and newcomers.

“Half of the team is over 35, and goalball is not an easy sport on the body,” Miller said. “We also need to prioritise team cohesiveness.”

The Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games would certainly help the team mesh together, as well as prepare them for Rio 2016.

All competitions taking place in Toronto 2015 will be Paralympic qualifiers for the Paralympic Games. Russia and Turkey’s women’s goalball teams also secured qualification slots for their countries at the World Championship.

“We will use any competition to work on fine tuning our performance in preparation for Rio,” Miller 2016. “This includes working on player combinations, getting our younger teammates more experience, and so on.”

She said Brazil, the team’s 2011 adversaries, present the biggest challenge. The two will face each other in a round-robin match on Monday (10 August). The USA will then meet Canada on 12 August. Medal matches will be played on 15 August, the final day of the Parapan Am Games.