WMU News

Goalball team is first to train at Olympic Training Center

Feb. 16, 2004

KALAMAZOO--Four members of the U.S. Women's Goalball Team, including a Western Michigan University graduate student and a WMU employee, have become the first disabled team to obtain residency at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Robin Theryoung, a Clarkston, Mich. native and student in the WMU Dept. of Blindness and Low Vision Studies, and Jennifer Armbruster, a project manager in the department, are among the four-person core of the six-member U.S. goalball team that captured the gold medal at the 2002 World Goalball Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The victory qualified the team for the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games and gave it the top seed going into the games. Also named to the OTC resident program were Nicole Buck, a recent graduate of Paw Paw High School, who attended goalball camps at WMU, and Lisa Banta of Boonton, N.J. Two additional players will be added to the program in June to train through the games.

"No team or athlete can ask for more than the opportunity to train daily at the OTC and have full access to the OTC facilities," says Ken Armbruster, the team's head coach. "I am confident that the four athletes chosen for the residency program will take full advantage of all the resources that have been made available."

Goalball is a team sport played by blind and visually impaired athletes around the world. Three players on each side of the court launch a ball at speeds of more than 30 mph at the opposing side's goal on an indoor, volleyball-sized court. All athletes are blindfolded, and nine bells encased in the basketball-sized ball help competitors track its location.

"This opportunity is huge for our women's goalball team," says Mark Lucas, executive director of the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes. "It provides them with some of the best resources in the world and will put the team in an excellent position to medal in Athens. Traditionally, these women have lived scattered around the country and, therefore, only had the chance to train together a few times each year. Now they will have the chance to not only train together, but mesh as a team, which will be critical to their success."

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

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