Interviewer: The Paralympic Games are a series of international multi-sport events involving athletes with different disabilities. What you may not know is that there is one sport played in the Paralympics which does not have an Olympics counterpart: goalball. My guest today is Chloe Thompson, and she is here to tell us what makes goalball unique. She is a goalball player on the American team.
Welcome to our programme, Chloe. I must say I’ve never heard of goalball. Can you tell us a little bit about this sport, and what makes it unique?
Chloe: Sure, and thank you for inviting me to your programme. Goalball is the only sport played in the Paralympics that has not been adapted from another sport. It was created on its own, specifically for people who have low vision or who are blind. It was invented in the 1940s by two doctors to help with the rehabilitation of soldiers who had been blinded in the Second World War, and developed as a competitive sport in the 1950s and 1960s. Today goalball is played in over 100 countries around the world. The game has a large following in these countries and is played both for enjoyment as well as a rehabilitation technique for children who are born blind and for anyone who loses their sight later in life. It was first played in the Paralympics unofficially in 1972, and in 1976 it became an official Paralympic sport.
Interviewer: What kind of court is it played on?
Chloe: Goalball is played on a court that is the same size as a volleyball court. It is 18 meters long by 9 meters wide and all of the lines that are on the floor are both painted and tactile so that the players can feel them with their hands and feet as they play.
Interviewer: Why do the lines on the floor have to be painted, if all the players rely on their sense of touch to feel them?
Chloe: Goalball has referees, like other competitive sports, and they need to see the lines. In fact, there are nine officials on court during official competitions.
Interviewer: Of course. Could you tell us a bit about the game itself? How long does a game take, and how do you score points?
Chloe: A goalball game consists of two 12-minute halves with a 3-minute halftime in which the players switch ends of the court, so each game lasts about half an hour. There are two teams, and there is a maximum of six players on each team, and there are three players from each team on the court at any single time. Players try to defend their goal from throws of a ball from the other end of the court. So, the object of the game is to score goals by getting the ball past the opposing team and across the goal line, and to do this you either throw the ball or roll it on the ground. The ball is about the size of a basketball and it weighs just under three pounds.
Interviewer: So you either throw or roll the ball. Can you also kick it?
Chloe: No, players are not allowed to kick the ball.
Interviewer: This may sound like a silly question, but how do you know where the ball is if you can’t see it?
Chloe: The ball has bells inside of it so that it can be heard when it’s being thrown or when it’s rolling. So for the players it’s very important for the crowd to keep quiet while the ball is in play because otherwise we can’t hear it. The coaches must also stay silent during gameplay. In fact, silence is so important that if players on the offense make too much noise while they are throwing or rolling the ball, they can be penalized because the team defending its goal might not be able to hear the ball.
Interviewer: Is this sport only for people who are totally blind?
Chloe: No. Some players are totally blind and some have low vision. Because of the varying degrees of visual impairment of the athletes, we are all required to wear eyeshades that completely black out our vision, so that everybody on court, in effect, plays blind.
Interviewer: Tell us a little bit about your last goalball game.
Chloe: It was great! We played in San Francisco. One of the referees punished me with a penalty because I touched my eyeshades, which is not allowed, so I had to defend the entire goal on my own. I was nervous and could feel the tense atmosphere in the audience. But in the end, we won!
Interviewer: I can tell you’re very enthusiastic about goalball Why do you like playing so much?
Chloe: To me, my team is like a family. I love the unity that we have. We are really good friends and rely on each other. Apart from that, this sport improves my orientation skills and builds confidence, which helps me in lots of ways. I also like the competitiveness of the game. It’s really great fun!
Interviewer: Thank you, Chloe, for such a lovely introduction to this sport. We hope to see you on court very soon, although now we know we won’t be allowed to shout each time you touch the ball. I’m looking forward to seeing your next match!
Chloe: Thank you!