Events: Two (Men and Women)
Classification: All athletes have visual impairment and compete wearing an eyeshade to create a level playing field. The ball contains a bell so athletes can tell where it is at
Venue: Future Arena
Athlete Quota: 120 (14 teams)
International Federation: International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA)
Defending Champions: Men: Finland, Women: Japan
Finland are the men’s defending Olympic Champions but they come in well off the pace sitting down in sixth in the world rankings after a difficult four years, seemingly the end of a golden generation after a win in the 2014 World Championships.
That leaves the door open for the silver medalists in London, Brazil, who were always targeting 2016 as their chance at a gold medal. The hosts are sitting in first on the world rankings, by a wide margin of 16 points, and the highest goal differential in world goalball.
A long way off the pace of both of those teams is Iran, currently ranked third in the world, sitting 44 points behind Lithuania. Iran have not played since November and will be coming in cold, leaving the door for bronze open, perhaps to China or Turkey, although Finland at a major tournament should not be discounted.
Brazil may not have medaled in the London Paralympic Games but they come in to their home Games with a strong chance of women’s goalball Gold. After winning the American Championship at the Para Pan-American Games, Brazil find themselves ranked second in the world and not getting at least a medal would disappoint the host nation.
The team that tops the rankings is not the defending champions of Japan, but rather their Asian neighbors, China. It’s been a strong four years for China, which has seen them steadily climb the world rankings and take a commanding lead at the top of the pre-Paralympic Games World Rankings.
Japan are currently sitting in third place in the world rankings but sitting well off the pace, over 110 points behind Brazil. That battle for bronze will be a tight battle, Japan will go in as strong favorites for that medal but will face tight competition from Turkey and the USA, and even Australia, a late inclusion for Russia who could well spring a shock with their strong defensive side.