Charlottetown’s Amy (Kneebone) Burk and her national goalball teammates hold their destiny in their own hands.
If they finish ahead of the rival Americans at the Parapan American Games, which begin today in Lima, Peru, they will clinch a spot for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.
“We’re really looking forward to sealing the deal,” Burk said before departing for Peru.
Burk has played on the national team for 14 years and has gone to three Paralympics.
“We all want to be there, we all want to compete, we want to represent Canada and we want to win,” she said. “There is a lot of pressure, but we’ve learned from the past that our team as a whole has to stop looking ahead and start looking at the little steps to get to the big picture.”
She used the analogy of paying attention to the first few kilometres of a marathon as opposed to the finish line.
Burk is a two-time world champion but the medals have eluded the national team at the Paralympics during her time on the squad. It finished fifth in 2008 and 2012, and sixth in 2016.
“I haven’t got on the podium yet at the Paralympics. It is by far one of my biggest goals,” Burk said. “I think it would be absolutely amazing to get to experience that.”
Clyde River’s Contessa Scott, who played on the national team with Burk, said it’s great to see an Island native playing at the Parapan American Games.
“I think it’s great. I hope that they do well,” she said Thursday.
Canada will compete in round-robin action alongside Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica, Mexico and USA, with the top four teams advancing to the semifinals.
The national squad had a chance to qualify for the Paralympics last month in Fort Wayne, Ind., but dropped a 9-2 loss to the Americans and finished fifth. Only the top two teams qualified.
Burk said the USA game was one of its worse performances. Normally a matchup with their rivals to the south is a coin flip to see who is going to win.
She said they made some bad decisions in Indiana, but they are correctable.
“I’m feeling very confident,” she said. “We know we’re a really good team. We’re a strong team defensively. We just need to find that again and I really think we’re going to be able to do it.”
If Canada doesn’t finish ahead of the Americans there is still a chance to qualify for the Paralympics, but it is more complicated and would require some help from other countries.
In a nutshell
Some basics about goalball.
• Played in a gym court by athletes with visual impairments.
• Athletes wear eyeshades to ensure fairness.
• The objective is to throw the 1.25-kilogram ball using a bowling motion into the opponent's net while the opposing players try to block the ball with their bodies. The ball has noise bells, which help orient the players.
• Silence during playtime is critical to allow the players to listen, concentrate, and react.
• Games consists of two 12-minute halves with a three-minute halftime.
• A thrown ball must touch the floor before passing over the centre line, which is six metres from the goal-line at the thrower’s end.
• A throw must take place within 10 seconds of coming under the control of the defending team. Passing is permitted within the 10 seconds and players may move about the court to adopt favourable positions
• No player may take more than two consecutive throws.
• Goalball was invented in 1946 in an effort to rehabilitate veterans with a visual impairment, who returned from the Second World War.
• It was introduced to the world at the Paralympic Games in Toronto in 1976.
Did you know? Canada earned bronze in goalball at the Parapan Am Games in 2015
A look at Canada’s goalball roster for the Parapan American Games in Peru that begin today.
Player Hometown Age
Whitney Bogart Ottawa 33
Amy (Kneebone) Burk Charlottetown 29
Meghan Mahon Timmins, Ont. 23
Abeer (Ruby) Hammad Calgary 26
Emma Reinke St. Thomas, Ont. 21
Maryam Salehizadeh Vancouver 32
Head coach Trent Farebrother
A look at Canada’s schedule for the goalball competition at the Parapan American Games. All times are Atlantic.
Canada vs. Brazil, noon.
Canada vs. Peru, 6:15 p.m.
Canada vs. Costa Rica, 6:15 p.m.
Canada vs. Mexico, 6:15 p.m.
Canada vs. USA, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 30