Photo above: Matt Simpson (#7) of Smyrna, Ga., makes a save during the goalball competition at the 2023 Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile.
Bill Kellick of the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes submitted the following article about 2023 Parapan American Games, where Paralympic athlete and Smyrna resident Matt Simpson played a key role in helping advance the USA Goalball Men’s Team to the 2024 Paralympic Games:
With its silver-medal performance last week at the 2023 Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile, the USA Goalball Men’s Team secured a berth in the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. The Parapan American Games represented the final qualification opportunity for the U.S. team and by advancing to the final against Brazil with an 11-4 win over Canada in the semifinals, the American contingent locked up one of eight spots at next summer’s Paralympics. Brazil had previously qualified by winning the 2022 Goalball World Championships.
“I think I’m more excited for my guys,” said Tyler Merren (Greenville, Mich.) about the possibility of making his fifth Paralympic Team. “We’ve been working really hard, training day in and day out. We’ve got six guys who can step out onto the court at any time and make it happen.”
Merren scored the first goal of the semifinal win over Canada and added two more along the way as the U.S. opened up a 5-1 halftime lead and never looked back. Calahan Young (Pittsburgh, Pa.) led the team with five goals and Christian King (Virginia Beach, Va.) chipped in three of his own.
“We know six out of the eight teams going to Paris so during this break we can formalize some assessments of the teams we’re facing and make the necessary adjustments,” said U.S. Men’s Head Coach Keith Young.
The U.S. team received balanced scoring throughout the tournament in which they compiled a 5-1 record. Merren led the team with 15 goals, followed by Young’s 14 and King’s 13. Also chipping in valuable minutes and goals were Zach Buhler (Huntington, Ind.) with six, Matt Simpson (Smyrna, Ga.) with five and Tre’Shaun Faison (Orange Park, Fla.) with four.
“We see where we stand right now going into Paris, so we’ll focus on honing our craft for these next nine months,” Buhler added. “Medaling here is awesome, but we want to medal in Paris.”
Since the first Paralympics in 1976, the U.S. men’s goalball team has won five medals (one gold, three silver, and one bronze. At the last Games held in Tokyo in 2021, the men’s team finished fourth after reaching the bronze medal game. The Paris 2024 Paralympic Games will be held August 28-September 8. The athletes announced to represent Team USA in goalball at the Paris 2024 Games will be announced before July 19.
ABOUT U.S. ASSOCIATION OF BLIND ATHLETES
The mission of USABA is to empower Americans who are blind or visually impaired to experience life-changing opportunities in sports, recreation, and physical activities, thereby educating and inspiring the nation. A member organization of both the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and U.S. Soccer, USABA is certified by the USOPC as the national governing body for the Paralympic team sports of goalball and blind soccer. The U.S. will make its Paralympic debut in blind soccer at the Los Angeles 2028 Paralympic Games. Since its founding in 1976, USABA has reached more than 100,000 individuals through its multi-sport programming. The organization has emerged as more than just a world-class trainer of blind athletes, it has become a champion of the abilities of Americans who are legally blind. Learn more at www.usaba.org/.
Goalball is the most popular team sport for the blind and visually impaired. The sport originated in 1946 when Austrian Hanz Lorrenzen and German Sett Reindle developed the game as a way to keep blinded WWII veterans physically active. Goalball has since become the premier team sport for blind athletes and is played competitively in 112 countries. Since 1976, U.S. goalball teams have earned 12 Paralympic Games medals (women: 2 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze; men: 1 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze) and 11 world championship medals (women: 4 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze; men: 1 gold, 2 bronze).