Turnstone to Tokyo with Calahan Young
July 23rd, 2021
Calahan Young has been working to achieve his goal of being a part of the US Paralympic Goalball team since he was 13-years-old. Today, at 26, he has achieved his goal and is preparing to help lead Team USA in their quest for a gold medal. As a captain for the United States Men’s Goalball Team, his objective is to do whatever he can to help the team win. Calahan shares how the team is working hard to reach their goal just as he has done for himself. Learn more by listening to our conversation with Calahan below.
Q: How are you feeling after being named to the Goalball Team that will represent the country at the Paralympics?
A: I'm beyond excited. You know, I've been working towards this goal since I was around 13 years old and I'm 26 now. So half of my life has been dedicated to getting to this point. And, it’s honestly so incredible. I told my mom when I knew last week. I wasn't allowed to tell anyone at the time, but I had to tell my mom, she's my biggest fan, her and my dad are my two biggest fans. It was nice to actually be able to tell people and actually spread the word that I was on the team and tell everyone who was actually on the team going to Tokyo.
Q: How did COVID impact your preparation for Tokyo?
A: Well, we were gearing up last year in January/February. We traveled to the Pajulahti games in Finland in January . And so, you know, we were starting to get the team narrowed down and then we had a few domestic tournaments. I was actually in Vancouver, British Columbia in March, whenever the border started shutting down. And so everything just got, like, the rug pulled out from underneath of us. And so we had to kind of stop and reset.
But in terms of training, that was kind of bad, but we were able to regroup. And then we got another year of preparation and muscle gains. And our coaching staff had changed in 2019, so we had another year of getting some more cohesion in our group and some more rapport from our coaches. In that respect, it kind of worked out really well for us.
Q: What does a normal training day look like for you at the height of your season?
A: Well, currently we're having practices on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and those are around three hours. And so on Monday, for example, we have practice from 12 PM to 3 PM. So I'll usually try to get there around 11 AM. For that I'm waking up around 7 or 8 AM to eat breakfast and that way I can have another snack before practice. Because of the 12 o’clock practice, it's kind of hard to get another meal in so I have a solid snack and then I get ready from 11 to 12 to have a pretty intense practice. This Monday it was like the first real day that we had knowing what we needed to do for Tokyo, with our final preparation. We call it “sharpening the sword”, we're just doing skill-based stuff and some conditioning and then finish up, go home, do schoolwork, wake up and do it again the next day.
Q: How will the team prepare for the Paralympics? How does this differ from other seasons?
A: Well, everything we do is cycle based. So we do around 10 weeks cycles pretty much throughout the year. Everything is kind of based around major tournaments. So right now we are on a normal in-season competition schedule. And that's how we've been treating it in a normal year outside of COVID. We would have our National Championships coming up, which is the end of the regular season. And then we'd have probably a five week break and then come back into the fall. So it would be the September timeframe where we'd start weight training and start that muscle building phase. And then get back into the in-season workouts in the January/February time slot. So, you know, we kind of stick to the same schedule, whether Tokyo is happening or not, it's just based on what major tournament we're preparing for.
Q: What does it mean to you to compete at the top level of your sport?
A: For me it's a tremendous honor, I've been working for this for so long and I got named as a captain for our team. And so, you know, anything I can do at this point to help the team win is my number one objective. For me to go out there with the group of guys that we have and try to win gold in Tokyo is just an amazing honor. And honestly, I can't wait, it's a dream come true.
Q: What advice would you give to youth who have ambitions of competing at the Paralympics?
A: My biggest piece of advice is just to keep pushing through adversity. I remember when I was 13 or 14, I wanted to quit goalball because I wasn't good. I was really turned off by the idea of going to practice, driving two hours to practice every week at Slippery Rock University and driving back and not have had a good performance, and just feeling down. And so my mom sat me down one day and said, “Listen, you either got to keep pushing on or just quit. And you have to be the one to call your coach and tell her.”
And I was too afraid of her, of our coach. So I was like, I'll just keep going. And I'm glad I did because we started seeing success and I started to develop into my body more. And now I'm here.
Q: What are you most looking forward to with Toyko?
A: With COVID, it is going to be a little different, but I am still looking forward to the atmosphere and just the overall experience because it is so different from anything that I have endured. It is on a way bigger scale than any other competition I have ever been involved with whether there are fans or no fans or opening ceremonies or not. Just from the village, to the venues, to the organization, you know it’s all that stuff I can't wait to see and be a part of.
Q: What is your favorite thing about goalball?
A: My favorite part about goalball is it gives everyone on the court an equal playing opportunity. Growing up I played about every sport possible from football to baseball to basketball and I had a lot more vision then, my vision is degenerative so as I grew up my vision kept getting worse and my peers kept getting faster, stronger, and better at those sports and I was lagging behind. Then, I found goalball and it was really the first thing that gave me the full opportunity to compete with all my peers on an equal playing field and so that really helped me grow into who I am and helped me to excel in other areas of life too and I can get that passion and drive.
Q: Do you have any “words to live by” that you’re carrying with you into the Paralympic Games?
A: I would say that the motto that I reiterate in my head with everything I do, is one of the Team USA sayings, “Going for Gold”. So every time I do something I always say that in my head, “Going for Gold,” to try and get that gold standard of, whether it’s a lift, or end of a practice when I am getting super exhausted, I am consistently trying to reiterate in my head, “Going for Gold, Gold Standards”, something along those lines, that just makes sure I know I am doing my best and doing what I can to get that gold medal.
Q: Is there anything else you want to say on behalf of the Men’s team?
A: I appreciate everyone’s support, and Turnstone’s support. You know, without Turnstone we would not be here. We wouldn’t have the training facility that we have, it’s beautiful and the staff is awesome. And a shout out to my biggest fans, my mom and my dad.