Asya Miller is one the most decorated American goalball players of all time. She is also among the record number of out LGBTQ Paralympians competing in Tokyo, making this year’s goalball competition even more riveting.
So, what is goalball?
Much like the Olympics, the 2020 Summer Paralympics puts added focus on sports that are both super interesting and cool beyond how much attention mainstream sports presentations pay to them outside of Olympics/Paralympics years. Tops on that list is goalball.
For the uninitiated, goalball is a sport exclusive to athletes with impaired vision. Two teams of three don blackout masks (so everyone is on a level playing field) and take turns attempting to hurl a heavy rubber ball into a goal extending the length of the 18-meter court’s baseline. The ball contains bells that alert players to its location on the court.
It’s a truly unique, accessible sport for a community that has limited opportunities to compete in team sports.
It also is one of the only sports that will actually benefit from not having fans in attendance in Tokyo, as silence is required while play is in session so the players can listen for the location of the ball.
In summation, goalball is dope.
Miller enters her sixth and likely final Paralympics this year, providing a veteran presence on a team looking to improve on their bronze-medal performance in Rio five years ago. That medal marked the third goalball Paralympic medal for Miller, adding to a gold medal in 2008 and a silver in 2004.
The Tokyo Games will be the 12th time goalball is contested as a Paralympic event.
For her part, Miller is embracing her role as “team mom,” alongside longtime teammate Lisa Czechowski, and she is ready to leave a lasting image on the court in Tokyo.
“Between the two of us, we have so much experience which allows us to handle things like stressful situations,” Miller told OPB. “It helps us lead the younger players on the team, and maintain focus and do things like that.”
Goalball isn’t the only Paralympic event where Miller has medaled. She kicked off her Paralympic career at the Sydney Games in 2000 with a bronze medal in discus. She also holds multiple world championships in powerlifting, proving her athletic acumen extends beyond the goalball court.
Though her career is winding down, Tokyo may not be the last time fans see Miller suit up for Team USA.
“In October there’s a tournament in Brazil and it’ll be a chance to visit in-laws,” Miller told the Portland Tribune. “[My wife’s] family lives like 10 minutes from the Paralympic training center in Brazil, where they hold tournaments.”
Miller and Team USA kick off their quest for goalball gold in Tokyo when group play gets underway on Aug. 25.
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