“We are very excited about our chances in Tokyo. We have a team which is a great balance between experience and youth and as a group we have proved to be determined, skilled and willing to challenge the best in the world with our own brand of goalball … we have our eyes clearly set on our first ever Paralympic podium finish.”
The Aussie Belles’ preparations for Tokyo have been vastly different to past campaigns because of the travel restrictions, uncertainty and other challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
But Mr Corr said the team had shown resilience and turned those obstacles into a positive. Not only have they had more time to train as a squad than ever before, but they have also been utilising a secret weapon to help them keep practising from different locations when COVID-19 restrictions have prevented travel between Australian states.
“We have been very fortunate in our Victorian Hub to have access to portable Goalball Packagoals during the Covid pandemic. They have provided us with a realistic tool to use to improve our skills whilst training in isolation from others,” Mr Corr said.
Purchased by Blind Sports Australia with the help of a Paralympics Australia Sport Equipment Fund grant, the Goalball Packagoals are full-sized inflatable goalball goals that are easy to transport, set up and store. They were developed in New Zealand by sports solutions provider Packaworld International and are gaining popularity among goalball organisers as a training aid and means of introducing the sport to players in new locations.
“They are easy to use and replicate one of the most important parts of our game really well,” Mr Corr said. “I have recommended to Goalball Australia that they invest in these goals over all states.”
The combination of extra training time and the portable goals means the Aussie Belles are better prepared than they have been for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro or 2012 London Paralympics campaigns, Mr Corr said.
Experienced Aussie Belles player Jenny Blow shares Mr Corr’s confidence. Speaking ahead of the team’s training camp in Victoria in late March, she said the team was firing on all cylinders and ready to take on the world.
“As a team and individually we are all playing incredibly well. I think we have a really strong chance of making the finals and then hopefully playing off for a medal.”
The Tokyo event will be Ms Blow’s third campaign so she knows well what to expect. As the “pinnacle” event for goalball players, the Paralympics brings out the best in everyone, she says.
“The excitement and hype a Paralympic Games brings is an amazing experience. No other competition compares to this so I am looking forward to that.”
Blind Sports Australia Chief Executive Matthew Clayton said the organisation was pleased to be able to support the team and the growth of goalball in Australia by securing the grant funding to purchase the goals.
“These inflatable portable goals are sturdy yet lightweight, easy to transport and assemble. The flexibility Packagoals provide is a real game changer for the sport, enabling programs for both high performance and development goalball right across Australia."
Packaworld Chief Executive Peter Roberts said the Packaworld team was right behind the Aussie Belles and wished them all the best for the Paralympics.
“It’s humbling to hear that our goals have played a small but important part in the Aussie Belles preparations for Tokyo. We will be following their results and we can’t wait to see how our portable goals can help grow the sport across Australia and elsewhere in the world in years to come.”
What is goalball?
Goalball was developed with blind and visually impaired athletes in mind. It is a Paralympic sport in which teams of three players roll a ball with bells inside it across an indoor court and into a nine-metre-wide goal at the other end. Players on the other team try to block the ball from entering their net by diving. Anyone can play – both blind and sighted wearing eye shades, relying on sound to identify where the ball is.
>> Interested in our portable goalball goals? Find our more on our Goalball Packagoal product page.