TOKYO, Japan — So far, the Men’s U.S. Goalball Team has had three wins and three losses, each alternating one after another. That didn’t keep them from expecting a victory in their bronze medal match today against Lithuania. The U.S. put up a serious fight, but their opponents were always two steps ahead, and by the end of the game, Lithuania led by three points and won the bronze 10-7.
“You know, we knew going into that game that they were coming out with a lot of power because of how they lost against Brazil, and we knew that they were the defending gold medalists,” said U.S. team’s #1 Daryl Walker, referring to Lithuania’s 5-9 loss to Brazil in the men’s semifinal.
Just like they did after their loss to China in the semi-finals, the team chose to view the glass as half full rather than empty.
“Nobody likes to lose, but we fought and we got here,” said U.S. team’s #7, Matt Simpson. “Ending up in the top four is a real win for us.”
According to the U.S. Team’s #4 John Kusku and Walker, Lithuania has been their rival for at least over a decade. In the preliminaries, Lithuania had beat the U.S. 3-13. In this match, they had at least managed to reduce the gap in their scores.
“We just basically had to go out there with the same amount of intensity that they were gonna bring. Otherwise they were just gonna walk all over us, and we did not want that to happen. That clearly happened in pool play, but we weren’t about to let that happen again,” said Walker.
Simpson, Walker and #6 Calahan Young each scored two goals, and Kusku scored one. Although it’s true that Lithuania got 10 goals through, the U.S. did put up a strong defense and even managed to block two penalty shots, once for Simpson and once for Walker.
“Defense in goalball is hard, right? Because you’ve got three people that are completely blindfolded trying to move to block a three pound ball moving 40 mph in one second,” said Young, adding that achieving cohesion on court is what makes a team, and that they plan on solidifying their defense and adding variety to their offense moving forward.
“We’re a gold medal team. I have faith in that,” he said.
They’ve been using the motto CIA which stands for confident, intentional and aggressive— confident on the court, playing with an intention and being aggressive on every single play.
“It’s definitely helped us a lot in this tournament and I truly feel that we’re gonna keep that saying along with us until the end of time,” said Walker.
The team is already looking forward to the Paris 2024 Paralympic games. Young said that he’s “hungry” just thinking about it, and that this loss is going to motivate and drive him to dominate in Paris.
Kusku knows the American spirit isn’t easily dampened by the losses.
“Yeah, we have a lot of people back home that are proud of us regardless of this result,” Kusku said. “So a lot of support back home means a lot to us.”
The team promised that this wasn’t their peak, and that they would be back for more.
“It was a hard-fought game and everything. I’m proud of my teammates, I’m proud of myself, I’m proud of the coaches and this isn’t the end for us, it’s just the beginning,” said Walker.
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