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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette A large crowd watches U.S. Women’s Goalball Team play China at Turnstone on Tuesday.

  • Garzon

  • Mushett

Thursday, July 11, 2019 1:00 am

Turnstone, event get rave reviews

Delegations, officials pleased with handling of tourney

ELIZABETH WYMAN | The Journal Gazette

Become the official U.S. goalball training center in 2015? Check.

Named one of 14 Paralympic or Olympic training sites in the U.S. in 2018? Check.

Hold an international qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics in 2019? Also, check.

Two days removed from the 2019 International Blind Sports Federation Goalball and Judo International Qualifier, Turnstone officials can finally take a breather after 15 months of intense planning.

“I think logistically it went really well,” Turnstone events coordinator Jaime Garzon said. “The venues were excellent, our staff did a great job of handling any issues we had, and the feedback I got from our technical directors for each sport is that we were probably one of the top five places in their careers for an IBSA sport.”

With competition running from July 2 through Tuesday, four teams punched their tickets to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games for goalball and 180 judoka athletes earned individual world ranking points towards qualification for the Games.

Turnstone CEO Mike Mushett is overwhelmed by the way the community stepped up in helping with the qualifier, which was held at Turnstone, Indiana Tech and Grand Wayne Center.

“We've gotten great reviews from the delegations that came in and from the international officials,” Mushett said. “The biggest concern was volunteers going into it and we ended up having almost 750 volunteers register, including the Fourth of July, which was our big day. The community really stepped up, great media coverage and Jaime and his team did a terrific job of organizing the event pretty flawlessly.”

Mushett said the feedback he's received has been excellent and hopefully will lead to more international events.

“As a result we've been approached about considering to bid on some other events that have been brought to our attention, so there's some other opportunities that we'll take a look at, but the community itself did itself proud,” he said.

The U.S. had a particularly strong showing across the board. The U.S. claimed its first-ever mixed team silver medal in judo and the women's goalball team qualified for Tokyo and took home silver at the event. China took gold on the women's side, Lithuania on the men's side and Turkey grabbed silver.

The U.S. men's goalball took fifth place and will have one final international qualifier to earn a spot in Tokyo at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru, which run Aug. 23-Sept. 1.

“It's a dream come true, certainly, with the board members and staff that were involved in creating the concept of the Plassman Athletic Center and becoming a Paralympic training site,” Mushett said of seeing the packed house cheer on the women's goalball team in the final. “This is kind of the ultimate dream come true to have a final against one of our big world rivals, China, and having it here and a nice crowd with the community support we had.”

U.S. women's goalball coach Jake Czechowski was blown away by how smoothly the event ran.

“Turnstone is a wonderful facility to begin with. The staff and its facilities are top notch,” Czechowski said. “Indiana Tech was fantastic as well. We were very confident that all the planning that we watched on a daily basis was going to pay off, and I think they did a fantastic job.”

The event, which cost about $1.2 million, was expected to bring 600 visitors to the city. Turnstone doesn't yet have the number of visitors or revenue it did bring in.

In a sports-oriented town, Mushett said the community rallied behind the athletes including media, volunteers and people who wanted to check out the excitement.

“We had a lot of longtime supporters that were engaged, but we also had a lot of new folks that had never been associated with Turnstone before that turned out to volunteer or spectate or help sponsor the event,” he said.

“It's really been a building block for Turnstone to move to the next step in the future in Fort Wayne.”

ewyman@jg.net