U.S. Men’s Goalball Team Remains Optimistic After Loss To China

TOKYO, Japan — China was a formidable opponent. Despite losing to Brazil in preliminaries, a team that the U.S. defeated, they won over Japan– a team that beat the U.S. and was considered by many to be amongst the best competing. The Chinese team undeniably earned their 8-1 victory, and the U.S. team was not afraid to admit that.

Daryl Walker, #1 for the U.S. men’s team, admitted to feeling “a little lousy” but still proud of how the team played.

“At the end of the day we still keep our heads up high and just focus on the next day, focus on the bronze medal match. It’s that simple,” Walker said. 

Team USA’s #7 Matt Simpson with a kick save against China on September 2, 2021. (PHOTO CREDIT: Lev Radin)

The U.S. team managed to get score a smooth point right at the start of the game, a moment that may have caused the players and spectators alike to celebrate a little early. It turned out to be their only point in the whole game.

Calahan Young was the one who scored that point for the U.S. team. 

“After that first goal, I was feeling on top of the world, right? And uh, as things started to pile up and pile up, all I could do is keep on pushing, so that’s all we did. We never stopped. I never gave up, I was trying to break them in half to score a ball through them,” he said.

Walker said he believed their first score was perfectly executed and that they played a solid defense, but that he’s not sure whether they lost focus or if it was simply a matter of China outplaying them.

“They came in strong, we knew they were gonna be a strong team coming into this semi-finals,” he said. “They gave us their best and it showed up on the scoreboard.”

According to Walker, they knew China was going to be a powerhouse team, but they’d still gone in with the mindset that they were going to win. 

Although it didn’t go their way, the team remained upbeat and optimistic.

“At the end of the game, there’s a winner and there’s a loser, and today we were the losers in this game,” Walker said. “But it’s all good, because we’re a family. We’re gonna support each other no matter what— we’re going to lift each other up and just prepare for tomorrow as if it is the gold medal match.”

Young agreed.

“Damn right, I’m gonna bring home that bronze. I’m gonna do what I can to help my team win this tournament. . . we’re not gonna stop pushing. We never have, we never will,” he said.

However, #4 John Kusku isn’t as focused on winning bronze as he is on the emotional value of succeeding alongside his team.

“I’m not sure if the medal would mean more, or just winning with my teammates,” he said. 

Lithuania lost to Brazil, so they’ll be the U.S. team’s competitors tomorrow in the bronze medal match. Kusku recalls that ever since he’d first made the team in 2009, Lithuania has always been their biggest rival. 

“It’s an honor to play them every time. We love each other, but we also like to beat each other up a lot,” said Kusku. “We’ve lost a lot more than we’ve won against them, so we would love— we would relish— the chance to come back on the court tomorrow against them as well.”

Rather than feel disheartened about their loss, they feel ready to brush off their shoulders and bounce right back onto their feet and into the court again.

“We’re a team that’s prepared for adversity. And so, we take these bumps and bruises and kind of use them as momentum for tomorrow,” said Young.

Young’s girlfriend, Eliana Mason of the U.S. goalball women’s team, could be heard yelling encouragements for Team USA from the stands along with other teammates. 

U.S. women’s team’s #7 Eliana Mason rears up for a shot in their match against Brazil on September 2, 2021. (PHOTO CREDIT: Lev Radin)

“To have her here and have the whole women’s team here cheering us on is a great motivator,” said Young, adding that it almost feels like home. 

The U.S. Women’s Team is going up against Turkey in the gold medal match tomorrow after having won their semi-final game today. 

Head Coach Keith Young would argue about the distinction, emphasizing that they are all one team.

“It’s not USA Men’s Goalball, it’s not USA Women’s Goalball— it’s USA Goalball,” he said.

Coach young also expressed pride in the team, and not a shred of doubt about their capabilities going into their next and final match.

 “Even when we knew that China had it, the guys kept on battling. . . I promise you, we’ll be ready tomorrow.”

For more photos please check out photos.wheelchairsportsfederation.org

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