A Paralympic Preview: Goalball

With the Paralympic Games rapidly approaching, Report On Rio will preview every event that has a Canadian team competing in Brazil — featuring past results, schedules, rosters, and expectations.

Canada takes on the United States in semifinal action at the 2015 Parapan Am Games in Toronto.
Canada takes on the United States in semifinal action at the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto.

Canada will be looking for its first Paralympic podium finish in goalball since the women struck gold at the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece. From Sept. 8 to 16, 10 men’s teams and 10 women’s teams will face off for Paralympic glory at the Future Arena in the Barra Olympic Park.

The Road to Rio

A pair of bronze medal victories for the Canadian men and women at the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto qualified them both for the 2016 Games in Rio. The men defeated Argentina 13-3 in the bronze medal match in front of the home crowd while the women triumphed over Guatemala for third place by a score of 11-1.

Previous Paralympics (W-D-L)

2004: Athens, Greece – Men: 2-1-2, lost to Sweden in semifinal / Women: 7-0-0, defeated United States for gold medal

2008: Beijing, China – Men: 2-0-3, lost to Lithuania in quarterfinals / Women: 2-3-2, did not advance to knockout stage

2012: London, England – Men: 1-0-4, did not advance to knockout stage / Women: 3-0-1, lost to Finland in quarterfinals

Meet the team

While both teams have yet to be officially announced, the team travelling to Rio will likely be similar to the rosters from the 2015 Parapan Ams.

Men: The Parapan Ams roster featured four athletes who are currently listed as members of the national team, according to canadianblindsports.ca. These include British Columbia’s Brendan Gaulin and Ahmad Zevidavi, Quebec’s Bruno Haché  and Alberta’s Aron Ghebreyohannes. Youngsters Simon Richard from New Brunswick and Blair Nesbitt from Alberta rounded out the Parapan team and could crack the Rio lineup. Other contenders are national team members Doug Ripley of B.C. and Simon Tremblay of Quebec.

Tiana Knight competing from bronze at the 2015 Parapan Am Games in Toronto.
Tiana Knight competing from bronze at the 2015 Parapan Am Games in Toronto.

Women: Ashlie Andrews from B.C., Nancy Morin from Quebec and Ontario’s Whitney Bogart, Cassie Orgeles, Jillian MacSween, and Amy Kneebone are listed as national team members. Ontario’s Tiana Knight was a part of the 2015 bronze medalist team in Toronto and will likely be in the running for a spot as well.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for the official announcement of the Canadian national goalball teams heading to the Paralympic Games.

Expectations

The men will be in tough against world champions and host nation Brazil in Group A, which also features African champions Algeria, along with Sweden and Germany. Canada was bested by Brazil at the 2015 Parapan Ams by a score of 12-2 in the group stage. The result is not a testament to Canada’s poor play but rather to the dominance of a Brazilian squad that outscored their opponents 71 to 18 in seven games as they cruised to the gold medal. If Canada can get through the group stage in Rio, they could end up in a semifinal bout with team USA. Last October, Canada was able to pull out a 5-4 victory against the Americans, before losing to them 3-2 in the semifinals.

Brendan Gaulin competes at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Brendan Gaulin competes at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

In addition to avoiding a bracket with the powerhouse United States, defending Paralympic champions in Finland, the Asian champions in China, and a couple of strong teams from Lithuania and Turkey round out the tournament in Group B.

Meanwhile, the Canadian women have had mixed results in recent years, but the most recent Parapan Am Games were a major highlight and step forward. Canada easily handled the likes of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, but were unable to defeat Brazil and the United States. Despite their shortcomings against the world’s best, they were able to keep the matches close, losing 3-1 and 5-2 to USA and 3-1 to Brazil.

Canada will be underdogs in 2016, but have the potential and athletic ability to surprise any contender they match up with across the court. A favourable bracket helps, as they will avoid both Brazil and the United States in round robin play. They will take on Ukraine, Russia, European champions Turkey and London 2012 silver medalists China. Getting back to where they were 12 years ago will be a tough hill to climb, but a podium finish is certainly not insurmountable. The women have shown they can hang with the top dogs and on the worlds biggest stage, anything can happen.


Photo Credit: Canadian Paralympic Committee

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