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The Canadian goalball team’s longest serving member initially gave up on the sport.
Amy (Kneebone) Burk was 12 years old when she tried goalball for the first time after being introduced to the sport by her vision teacher.
“I went and gave it a try and determined that was not for me. . . I didn't feel like I wanted to get this ball thrown really fast at my face,” she said. “A year later, I decided I didn't give it a fair enough chance, so I went back and tried it again.”
A year older and more mature, she adapted well the second time around.
The 29-year-old Charlottetown native, who has been on the national team since she was 15 years old, is a two-time world champion and has attended three Paralympics.
“I was very fortunate P.E.I. coach Frank MacIntyre was also the national team coach as well.
I was so lucky to have him teach me the game and to be able to watch Contessa (Scott) as well,” Burk said.
Scott said she is glad to see Burk stuck with goalball.
“In any sport, whether it’s a Paralympic sport or an able-bodied sport, it brings out the will a person has,” she said. “A lot of times it will work out the second time around.”
Reflecting on her career, Burk said the sport has dramatically changed her life.
“If I never got involved with goalball I never would have met (my husband Tyler), I wouldn't have my family now. I can’t imagine how my life would have went if I never went back the next year and gave it another try,” she said.
The sport has given her so much more than trips around the world and an avenue to express her competitive nature.
Today, she is a strong opinionated person, but the visually impaired Burk grew up as a shy girl who didn't see others like her in Charlottetown.
“I was embarrassed about it,” she said.
Burk was born with albinism, an inherited genetic condition that reduces the amount of melanin pigment formed in the skin, hair and/or eyes. She is very sensitive to light and said her visual acuity is 2,200.
“So, what you would see at 200 feet, I would see at 20 feet,” she explained.
Getting involved with goalball provided her an opportunity to meet others dealing with similar situations. It became an empowering experience.
“It was so nice to see other people out doing what they love and that I can go, do whatever I want also, and I ran with it,” she said. “It was a huge eye-opener. . . Now you wouldn't know I was a shy, timid, scared little girl back when I was 10.”