Alumni competing in goalball at Paralympics in Rio

contact: Mark Schwerin
| WMU News
Photo of John Kusku.


KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The U.S. teams competing in the goalball competition at the Paralympics have strong ties to Western Michigan University.

In all, four graduates and a former instructor are in in Rio de Janeiro competing in the Paralympic Games, which run Sept. 7-18.

John Kusku, a 2007 graduate; Joseph Hamilton, a 2002 graduate; and Tyler Merren, a 2011 graduate, all represent the U.S. on the men's goalball team. Competing on the women's team are Asya Miller, a 2001 graduate, and Jen Armbruster, a former instructor in the WMU Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies. Most, or possibly all, of them grew up attending WMU goalball sports camps and competing in WMU goalball tournaments.

John Kusku

Kusku, of Commerce Township, was born with a hereditary degenerative retinal disease and is legally blind, with less than one degree of vision left in each eye. He was introduced to goalball at a Sports Education Camp hosted by the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes at WMU at a young age. Having a passion for sports as a child, he was excited to learn about a team sport in which he could compete without special accommodations. He continued to develop his skill in the sport throughout high school and college.

Kusku went on to become a member of several medal-winning teams, including the silver medal team at the 2015 ParaPan American Games, the bronze medal team at the 2014 World Goalball Championships, and the silver medal team at the 2011 ParaPan American Games.

Kusku is married and a father and teaches high school math and physics. His wife, Jessica, coaches his team, Michigan Omega.

"I think my experiences at the 2011 ParaPan Games in Mexico and 2015 in Canada will be similar to our experience in Rio," Kusku is quoted as saying in an article on the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes website. "The ParaPan Am Games are run just like the Paralympics, just on a smaller scale. I'm excited about the large number of athletes from all over the world, living and eating together in the Athlete Village, hanging out with my teammates for three weeks, and watching the Paralympic competition.

About goalball

Goalball is an action-packed sport is similar to hockey or soccer and played exclusively by visually impaired or blindfolded players using a bell-filled ball. Players defend their own goal by carefully listening for the ball and, after successfully blocking it, try to throw it into the opponent's goal, with the ball traveling upwards of 40 mph. The game was developed in Eastern Europe following World War II and was brought to the United States in the 1970s.

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