Things to watch for in goalball

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Goalball is an unmatched game of strength, speed and skill. Check out some of the top athletes who will compete for the ultimate prize in original team sport for the visually impaired at Tokyo 2020.

Amanda Dennis (USA)

Two-time Paralympian Amanda Dennis played a pivotal role in USA’s return to the Paralympic podium at Rio 2016. Blocking an incredible 40 shots from Brazil in the women’s bronze medal game, Dennis helped his team to win a 12th medal. As team captain, she was also the USA’s top scorer at the 2018 World Championships.

Dennis, who is married to German national team player Michael Dennis, started playing right-handed goalball when she was 7, but switched to her left. As a result, the 27-year-old is particularly ambidextrous and has been working on her right-handed throw in recent months.

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Leomon Moreno (BRA)

Leomon Moreno led Brazil’s march to the top of the sport and became a goalball icon. From failing to qualify for the World Championships in 2010 to gold in the next two editions – and a first Paralympic medal between the two – Moreno has been there.

In 2014 and 2018, he was the top scorer in Brazil’s two world titles. He faced extreme pressure when his team contested the bronze medal game at their home Paralympic Games in 2016. Moreno kept the lead in the game and scored the game-winning goal against Sweden to set up his country a podium.

©Karl Nilsson

Sevda Altunoluk (TUR)

Serial leading scorer Altunoluk has propelled her team to the greatest heights in goalball over the past decade. Altunoluk was the Turkish women’s top striker when they were promoted to European Goalball Pool A in 2012 and they have never looked back.

An extremely efficient and powerful shooting style saw him score an impressive 82 goals at Rio 2016 and the 2018 Worlds combined. Three of Turkey’s four goals in the 2016 final against China came from the hands of the Turkish player, giving them their first Paralympic medal – a gold medal. Altunoluk was also part of the team that scored its first Worlds podium in 2014, followed by silver the next time around.

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Masae Komiya (JPN)

Japan’s top striker at the 2018 Worlds, Komiya is heading home to the Paralympics as one of the sport’s most experienced players.

Komiya was part of the Japanese women’s team that won bronze at the Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004 and gold in London in 2012. More recently, Komiya won the Asian title with her teammates in 2019.

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Mantas Panovas (LTU)

Lithuania’s talents in goalball have seen them finish on the podium or challenge for the podium at the last five World Championships. Between 1998 and 2018, they collected two gold medals, one silver and one bronze and appeared in all other bronze medal matches.

Panovas played a crucial role in this journey. In 2018, he scored 36 goals to finish as the second top scorer.

©Sari Ben David

Lihi Ben David (ISR)

Ben David defies the laws of physics with his incredibly powerful throwing style. The 25-year-old uses such force to propel the ball down the pitch that spectators often wonder how she doesn’t hurt herself.

The Israelis are in such good shape that they can dare to dream of their first Paralympic medal in Tokyo. Their run-in featured a silver medal at the 2019 European Championships, with Ben David as the tournament’s second top scorer.

©Fort Wayne 2019

Tyler Merren (USA)

Merren will be competing at his fourth Paralympic Games at Tokyo 2020, hoping to clinch the gold that has so far eluded him.

He was part of the silver medal winning squad at Rio 2016 where he scored in the final against Lithuania. He also captured bronze in Athens 2004. At World Championship level, Merren was instrumental in the United States finishing third on the podium in 2014.

Off the goalball field, Merren is a motivational speaker and coach. In 2020, he won the prestigious Holman Award for developing an audio fitness app that provides descriptive information to visually impaired people.

©Fort Wayne 2019

Ana-Carolina Custodio (BRA)

Custodio’s surprisingly unconventional throwing style is what defines the Brazilian’s career to date. But the ‘Brazilian special’, where Custodio kicks the goal ball backwards between his legs, isn’t just a gimmick. It’s very effective.

Custodio was the top scorer for the women’s team that achieved its first World Championships podium with silver in 2018, and a team that has its first Paralympic medal firmly in sight at Tokyo 2020. She missed Rio 2016, beaten in the bronze medal game against the United States by a single goal. Custodio’s unique delivery, honed over the years, is one of the key tools in their arsenal.

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Olivier Hoerauf (GER)

Hoerauf is part of a new generation of German players who have turned their side’s fortunes around in recent years.

Languishing fifth at the 2015 European Championships, Germany finished second in 2017 and won the title in 2019 with Hoerauf as top scorer.

Moreover, he was among the top 10 forwards at the 2018 Worlds where Germany finished on the podium for the first time in 28 years, alongside teammate Michael Dennis.

©Karl Nilsson

Chunhua Wang (CHN)

Chunhua Wang was China’s top scorer at the 2019 Asian Championships where the team won silver. Wang was also among the top five forwards at the 2018 World Championships.

In an attack known for his offensive skills, Wang shines as one of the best around.

©Ryo Ichikawa

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