Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

Kensington woman helps bring home gold for women’s Paralympic goalball team

By kbender
Monday, September 15th, 2008 at 12:52 pm in Uncategorized.

The U.S. Paralympic women’s goalball team, made up of six women from around the country, including Jessica “Jessie” Lorenz from Kensington, has taken the gold medal in Beijing. The team beat Denmark last week in sudden overtime to play China for the gold.  Then on Satruday they beat China, 6-5, in a
sold-out Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium to win the gold medal.

 The USA led most of the first half but went into halftime tied at 3. The second half saw China put constant pressure on the USA and the relentless attacks created Chinese leads of 4-3 and 5-4. The USA kept answering and Asya Miller, who scored all 6 of the USA goal found the net for the final time with 40 seconds left. 

Lorenz, who I profiled in the Oakland Tribune and the Contra Costa Times last month, (http://www.contracostatimes.com/alamedacounty/ci_10240424 is still in Beijing, but she posted a note on Facebook to her suppoerts.

“Nothing is like standing on that medal podium and hearing our national anthem play,” she wrote. “One oddity with having all visually impaired people on the podium was our challenge in finding the appropriate direction to gaze in to show the flag our respect. One of our players spotted it though- so there we were, left hands on heart, singing along, most  of us with tears in our eyes- for all the world to see that the USA has the best woman’s goalball team in the world.”

“I believe that athletes with visual impairments challenge society because we become what many people feel is impossible. To be the best in the world at my sport was what drove me to continue to play- and now here we are- at the top of that podium.” She said she remains in a Golden Haze.

While 4,000 disabled athletes from 145 countries have been competing in 20 sports during the games this month, the games are not broadcast on TV so you may not have been following them. They were broadcast on http://beijing.sports.pressakey.net/schedulePST.php. In addition to goalball, the games, which end with closing ceremonies on Wednesday, have included swimming, rowing, wheelchair basketball, powerlifting and wheelchair tennis.

First introduced as a demonstration event at the 1972 Paralympic Games during in Toronto, goalball’s first championship was held in 1978. Goalball became a permanent sport in the Paralympics at the 1980 games in Anaheim. But goalball’s roots go back much further.

Goalball was invented in 1946 by Austrian Hanz Lorenzen and German Sepp Reindle as a way to rehabilitate blind post-World War II veterans, according to Internet information on the sport. It is now played in 112 countries.

Players attempt to throw the ball over the goal line at the opposite end of the court, thus scoring a goal. Defenders try to gain possession of the ball by putting themselves between the thrower and the goal. When a defender gains possession, it is then his or her team’s turn to throw at the opposing team’s goal. The only time play stops is after a goal has been scored, or if the ball crosses a sideline.

The women’s team (above) is made up  of Lorenz:  Jen Armbruster, who splits her time between Colorado Springs, Colo., and Birmingham, Ala.; Lisa Banta of Boonton, N.J., and Tucson, Ariz.; Jaclyn Barnes of Wadsworth, Ill.; Asya Miller of Lapeer, Mich., and Colorado Springs; and Robyn Theryoung of Clarkston, Mich., and Colorado Springs. Except for one woman, it is the same team that competed in Athens and brought home the silver medal. What’s next for the team?  We’ll check in with Lorenz again.

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