WMU News

U.S. goalball teams bring home silver and bronze

Sept. 29, 2004

KALAMAZOO--Blind and visually impaired goalball athletes from the United States, many of them with connections to Western Michigan University, struck silver and bronze Sunday in the Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece.

In the matchup that everyone had expected for the gold medal in women's goalball, the U.S. team won silver when it was edged by Canada, 3-1. In men's goalball action, the U.S. team took bronze by narrowly defeating Canada, 5-4, overcoming a 4-1 deficit to win its first medal in 16 years.

In all, nine of the 16 athletes on the two U.S. teams have ties to Western Michigan University. They are current WMU students or graduates, attended sports camps at WMU or work at the university. In addition, John Bakos, U.S. men's goalball coach, is a recent graduate of the WMU Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies.

The women's team has the strongest ties to WMU. Team members with local connections are: Robin Theryoung, a WMU graduate student and native of Clarkston, Mich.; Nikki Buck, a Paw Paw, Mich., resident who attended WMU sports camps; Jennifer Armbruster, a project manager in blindness and low vision studies; Asya Miller, a Battle Creek, Mich., resident and WMU graduate and member of the track team; and Jessie Lorenz, who lives in California, but learned the sport at WMU sports camps. Rounding out the team are alternates Lindsay Sloan and Jackie Barnes of Illinois, who also learned goalball at WMU sports camps. Miller scored the U.S. team's lone goal in the final round against Canada.

The men's team includes WMU sophomore and former sports camper Tyler Merren of Kalamazoo and team alternate Joe Hamilton, a former sports camper and recent WMU graduate. Merren had four goals in the men's bronze-winning effort.

The strong representation from the local area on the teams is credited to Dr. Paul Ponchillia, chairperson of the WMU Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies. A longtime promoter of sports education for athletes with visual impairments, Ponchillia initiated a goalball program in Kalamazoo and founded an annual sports education camp for youths with visual impairments.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 269 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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