Paralympic Qualifier Adding to Fort Wayne's Reputation

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(photo courtesy of ISBA Goalball) (photo courtesy of ISBA Goalball)

The chief executive officer of Visit Fort Wayne says the weeklong qualifying event for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo is adding to the city's reputation for hosting adaptive sports events. Fort Wayne-based Turnstone Center co-hosted the 2019 IBSA Goalball & Judo International Qualifier, marking the first time the qualifier has been held in the United States. Dan O'Connell says the event has served as a showcase for the city as it strives to be a national leader for adaptive sports.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, O'Connell said Fort Wayne is known for youth sports and hockey, but adaptive sports is a relatively new focus.

"About five years ago, Turnstone, our agency that works with disabled individuals and residents, their board decided to build a new facility that would not only take care of their constituency, but help be a destination for elite athletes with disabilities," said O'Connell. "Henceforth, we're on a strategic plan to make Fort Wayne a destination for adaptive sporting events as part of our core values here to assist citizens with those disabilities but also to be a destination that helps us grow our economy." 

Nearly 600 athletes and delegates from 40 countries descended on Fort Wayne for the event, which was also hosted in conjunction with the United States Association of Blind Athletes. O'Connell said the city received rave reviews for hosting the qualifier.

"The reaction's been outstanding. We had nearly 600 total people in judo and goalball teams here and heard nothing but praise for the hospitality they have received. They have said these are some of the best facilities that they've ever competed in, better than their own countries' facilities, in fact. I think what they've really sensed is that they like to be the big fish in the small pond; they like to be center stage here and sometimes Paralympians don't get that exposure that the Olympians do and I think the athletes feel especially privileged and welcomed to represent their countries in this type of competition and our famous Hoosier hospitality is really exposing them to what makes Indiana special."

At the end of the goalball tournament, Lithuania and Turkey won the gold and silver for the men, while the women's teams from China and USA took home silver. All four teams will advance to the 2020 Tokyo Games. The judo competition was a mixed-team event, with Ukraine and USA taking the gold and silver, respectively.

You can learn more about the IBSA Goalball & Judo International Qualifier by clicking here.

O'Connell said Fort Wayne is known for youth sports and hockey, but adaptive sports is a relatively new focus.
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