Goalball is a team sport that was specifically developed to be played by athletes with visual impairments. It is a unique sport because it has no equivalent version for able-bodied athletes.
Two teams of six athletes compete against each other, with three athletes from each team playing at any one time. Each team tries to throw or roll a ball into the opposing team’s goal. The game is typically played on a court indoors, such as a volleyball court. Players stay on their hands and knees during the game. Lines of string are taped down on the court to help athletes feel their way around the court. The game ball has bells embedded into it so that it makes noise, allowing the athletes to locate the ball and follow its movement without needing to visually see it. Because athletes might have different levels of vision impairment, all athletes compete wearing blindfolds to ensure fair play. Players remain on their side of the court during play.
Goalball originated in 1946. Hanz Lorenzen and Sepp Reindle developed the game to assist with the rehabilitation of visually impaired veterans of the Second World War. As a competitive sport it grew through the 1950s and 1960s. It was first contested at the 1972 Summer Paralympic Games in Heidelberg, West Germany, as a demonstration sport. The first World Championship for goalball was in in 1978, in Vocklamarck, Austria. At the 1976 Summer Paralympic Games in Toronto, men’s goalball became a part of the regular Paralympic sport schedule. Women’s goalball became a part of the regular Paralympic sport Schedule at the 1984 Paralympics in New York, where the Canadian women’s team earned a silver medal. Canadian goalball teams at the Paralympic Games have seen regular success, with the women’s team earning bronze at the 1988 Games, bronze at the 1992 Games, gold at the 2000 Games, gold at the 2004 Games, and the men’s team having earned silver at the 1996 Games.
Dean Kozak is a goalball athlete who was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2013. He competed in goalball from 1993 to 2009. Throughout his career he competed in 4 Paralympic Games, with the highlight of his career being at the 1996 Games, when he earned a silver medal as part of the Canadian team. During his career he medaled at every national championship he competed in, including eight gold medals. He spent time in Ontario and Quebec in addition to his time in Alberta. As part of team Alberta, he won four gold, three silver, and three bronze medals, with Team Quebec he won a silver medal, and with Team Ontario he won four gold and one bronze medal. He competed at the Paralympic Games in 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008, the World Championships in 1998, 2002, and 2006, and the IBSA Pan American Games in 2001 and 2005. At both the 2001 and 2005 IBSA Pan American Games he was part of the gold medal winning Canadian teams.
Trivia: At the Paralympic Games, athletes have been recorded throwing the ball at speeds over 60 kilometers per hour!