Latter-day Saints in the Paralympics, day 10: Sitting volleyball team to compete for bronze, plus updates in goalball, archery and swimming

The women’s sitting volleyball team from Canada is headed to the bronze medal match after the semifinals on Friday, Sept. 3, on the 10th day of the Paralympic Games. The battle for bronze in men’s goalball, the individual recurve tournament and a final day swimming were also part of Friday’s competitions for athletes connected to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints competing in Tokyo.

Read more of Church News’ coverage of athletes connected to the Church competing in the Paralympics

Sitting volleyball 

Canada’s Payden Vair (5), top left, watches the ball during the women’s sitting volleyball semifinal match against China in at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, in Chiba, east of Tokyo, Japan.
Canada’s Payden Vair (5), top left, watches the ball during the women’s sitting volleyball semifinal match against China in at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, in Chiba, east of Tokyo, Japan. Credit: screenshot via nbcolympics.com

Canada’s sitting volleyball team, including field player Payden Vair, will play Brazil in the bronze-medal match on Saturday, Sept. 4. 

The women from Canada played China in the semifinals on Friday, Sept. 3, losing the match 3-0. The sets were 25-18, 25-20 and 25-15 as they battled for each point. Vair played during the three matches and served four times. China goes on to play Team USA in the gold medal match. 

Canada played Brazil in the preliminary pool round and it was Canada’s only loss in the four-team pool. 

Vair, 22, of Alberta, was a collegiate soccer player and was introduced to sitting volleyball following a lawn mower accident that resulted in the amputation of her right leg below her knee. 

Sitting volleyball is similar to indoor volleyball and has a lower net (just higher than a meter, or about 41 inches, for women) and a slightly smaller court. Tokyo is her first Paralympics. 

Goalball 

USA's Daryl Walker listens while waiting for the ball to come his way during the Men's Goalball Bronze Medal match between the United States and Lithuania during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Chiba, Japan, Friday Sept. 3, 2021.
USA’s Daryl Walker listens while waiting for the ball to come his way during the Men’s Goalball Bronze Medal match between the United States and Lithuania during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Chiba, Japan, Friday Sept. 3, 2021. Credit: Simon Bruty for OIS via Associated Press

USA’s goalball team, including Daryl Walker, came in fourth overall, losing 10-7 to Lithuania in the bronze-medal game on Friday, Sept. 3. Walker played 19 minutes, scored twice and made 26 throws during the match. 

Lithuania scored its first two goals on penalty throws, and Walker scored USA’s first goal of the match. On a penalty throw, the player who incurred the penalty defends the goal alone. 

USA tied it up about halfway through the first half and scored once more, trailing the half 3-2. In the second half, Lithuania pulled ahead to 6-2, and the U.S. came back with two goals at 6-4 before Lithuania scored again on a penalty throw. The U.S. scored two more goals, including one by Walker, bringing the score to 7-6. Lithuania pulled ahead to 9-6 and each scored one more before the match ended 10-7. 

Walker, 39, who hails from Florida and trains in Indiana, has albinoism that affects his eyesight and is legally blind. He was part of the team winning the silver medal in 2016, when Lithuania won gold. 

Goalball, a game designed for the visually challenged, is played on a court about the size of a volleyball court with textured lines and a ball that’s about the size of a basketball with bells and holes in it. There are goals at each end of the court that span the 9-meter, or 29.5-foot, width of the court. The match consists of two 12-minute halves. 

Each team is allowed three players on the court and all players wear darkened visors, or eye shades, to equalize visual ability as they defend their goal that is 1.3 meters, or 1.4 yards, tall and throw the ball to score points. 

The sport made its debut in the Paralympic Games in 1975 and is one of two sports at the Paralympics that doesn’t have an Olympic counterpart. 

Archery 

USA's Eric Bennett competes in the men's individual recurve 1/16 elimination at the Yumenoshima Park Archery Field during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in Yumenoshima, Japan, Friday, Sept. 3, 2021.
USA’s Eric Bennett competes in the men’s individual recurve 1/16 elimination at the Yumenoshima Park Archery Field during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in Yumenoshima, Japan, Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. Credit: screenshot via nbcolympics.com

USA’s Eric Bennett  was ninth overall in the men’s individual recurve archery tournament on Friday, Sept. 3, after two close matches.

The 48-year-old of Surprise, Arizona, was ranked 15th after the preliminary ranking round and faced Australia’s Taymon Kenton-Smith, who was ranked 18th, in the 1/16 elimination round. 

The competition is a head-to-head duel of five sets. In each set, the archers have three arrows and alternate taking each shot. Archers shoot a target that’s 122 centimeters, or 48 inches, in diameter that is 70 meters, or about 76.5 yards, away. The target has 10 concentric bands — the center band is 10 points and the outside band is 1 point. 

Two points are awarded for each set won, one point for a tie and no points for loss. 

The men’s individual recurve competition includes both standing and wheelchair sport class archers and all competitors use a recurve bow.

Against Kenton-Smith, Bennett won 6-4 points, winning the first two sets 27-25 and 29-24, including two 10’s. He lost the next two 24-23 and 25-24 and won the fifth 28-24.  

In the ⅛ elimination round, Bennett shot against China’s Lixue Zhao. Zhao won the first set, 26-25. They tied the second and third matches and were practically arrow for arrow in their score combinations. In the third set, Bennett won, 29-27, and scored two 10’s. In the fifth round, Bennett lost the set 25-21. Zhao went on to win the silver medal. 

This is the fourth Paralympics. He was eighth in the recurve division in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games and fourth in the 2012 Games in London. The high school physics and engineering teacher in 2019 won silver at the world championships. He lost his right arm above the elbow in a car accident when he was 15 and uses a mouth tab to pull back the string.

He will be back on the archery range at Yumenoshima Park Archery Field for the mixed team recurve competition with teammate Emma Rose Ravish as they face the team from the Russia Olympic Committee. 

Archery was featured at the Parlympics’ predecessor, the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948. It’s been in every Paralympics since the first competition in 1960.

Swimming 

Alejandra Aybar Diaz of the Dominican Republic smiles as she enters for the women’s 100-meter butterfly S8 final at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo Friday, Sept. 3, 2021.
Alejandra Aybar Diaz of the Dominican Republic smiles as she enters for the women’s 100-meter butterfly S8 final at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. Credit: screenshot via nbcolympics.com

Alejandra Aybar Diaz of the Dominican Republic swam in the 100-meter butterfly S8 (for physical impairments) final on Friday, Sept. 3. She was eighth with her time of 1:44.12.

This is the 32-year-old industrial engineer’s third race at her first Paralympics, and she competed in the 50-meter freestyle and 100-meter breaststroke. In Tokyo, she became the first swimmer representing the Dominican Republic to compete in the Paralympics. And in this race, it was the first time a swimmer from the Dominican Republic competed in a finals race.

Aybar is 4 foot 3 inches tall, has brittle bone disease, osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as crystal bone disease.

Upcoming competitions

On Saturday, Sept. 4, Bennett will be back on the archery range for the mixed team recurve competition.

Also on Saturday Canada’s sitting volleyball team plays the United States in the bronze medal match. 

The closing ceremony is on Sunday, Sept. 5, ending the 12 days of competition.