Portland's goalball bronze medalists


The recent summer games weren't just about the Olympics. The Paralympics, which were also held in Rio de Janeiro, wrapped up less than a month ago and some proud Portlanders returned home with some heavy hardware in women's goalball.

"There's a lot of pride in the Northwest because you have good athletes and it all stems from the regional programs we have here," said Asya Miller.

She and Jen Armbruster are medal-worthy pride of Oregon.

It’s a different pitch for a different sport. Goalball is played by people who are blind or visually impaired. All competitors wear masks to equalize their impairment, heaving a 3-pound ball with bells on the inside into the goal.

After a 24-year-career, Armbruster, including a world title in 2014 and Paralympic gold in Beijing, is calling it quits after seven Paralympic appearances.

"It was a good way to end it, my career, our coach has been with us for 20 years as well and he has been with us for all four medals as well," she said.

Team USA's coach for the past two decades was her dad, Ken Armbruster.

"They both did a lot of crying, especially at the end," said Miller. "It was a happy cry because they were celebrating winning but it was sad because it was the end. They both just cried a lot … There's a lot of pictures, you just can't deny it."

While Armbruster and Miller, who was part of the last five Paralympics, come home from Rio with bronze, the married couple will continue to play on the local level with the Rose City Thorns and pay it forward by paying it back.

"We weren't home a week and Jen's already planning the elite skills camp that we host in December, so she's already moved on to the next goalball-related thing," said Miller.

Armbruster said, "Both of us, that's why we started this camp three years ago, the elite skills camp. People wanted to train with us and we want to give back to the sport and those future ones that will be representing the red, white and blue for sure."

She added, "It is really scary that we have built the program up in the last 20 years. The U.S. women's program has been pretty dominant and I think we want to see that continue even if we aren't on the court. We want to see the U.S. represent on the medal stands in the future as well."

When asked about Tokyo 2020, Miller said, "I'm going to find a way to get there, darn it, whether if it's coaching or not … I'd love to be able to see it firsthand."

With Coach Ken retiring, what about Team USA Coach Jen?

"That's a decision we kind of have to make as a family … and see where everything is," said Armbruster.

When asked if her guide dog Simon had a say in that, she replied, "He has a say in everything."

Another Portlander, Portland State University student Eliana Mason was on that bronze medal club. The U.S. men's team won silver.

For more information on how you can join the goalball elite skills camp or just play goalball recreationally, just contact Adaptive Sports Northwest.


Sports reporter

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