WMU News

Goal ball tournament draws top visually impared athletes

February 24, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- Six participants from the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics will be among the visually impaired athletes competing at Western Michigan University Saturday, Feb. 28, in the 15th Annual Midwest Regional Goal Ball Tournament.

Sanctioned by the U.S. Association for Blind Athletes, the goal ball tournament will feature men's and women's teams from California, Colorado, Indiana, New Jersey, Tennessee and Ontario as well as several teams from Michigan. At least six of the athletes represented either the United States or Canada in the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. Three of the paralympians are WMU team members Sherry Gordon and Shawn Donaldson of Kalamazoo and Ed McInnis of Saginaw.

The competition for trophies and medals begins at 7:30 a.m. Saturday and continues throughout the day at WMU's Student Recreation Center.

The WMU men's team was undefeated in U.S. competition in 1997 and is attempting to win a third consecutive national championship. The Kalamazoo tournament was among its first-place finishes last year. The WMU women's team finished third in the nation last year. It hopes to challenge Colorado, which has won the WMU tournament for four consecutive years,.

Goal ball is a fast-paced, goal-oriented, physical sport similar to hockey or soccer, and is exclusively played by visually impaired or blindfolded players. It was originally developed in Eastern Europe by blind veterans following World War II and came to the United States in the 1970s.

Playing on a surface the size of a volleyball court, competitors use a 3.5-pound ball that contains a bell so they can hear it. Using their sense of touch and ability to hear, three offensive players catch, pass and attempt to score against three defensive players. The game is fierce and aggressive and the ball may travel at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour, sometimes covering the court in less than one second.

Several volunteers make the annual Kalamazoo Invitational possible. Those interested in volunteering should contact Dr. Paul E. Ponchillia, WMU professor of blind rehabilitation and coordinator of the event, at (616) 387-3455.

Media contact: Julie Paavola; julie.paavola@wmich.edu

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