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Blind athletes compete at WMU

Feb. 23, 2006

KALAMAZOO--Sixteen of the nation's top goalball teams are expected to make their way to the Western Michigan University campus Saturday and Sunday to compete in the United States Association of Blind Athletes Midwest Regional Goalball Tournament.

The tournament is one of the largest contests of its kind in the United States. Organizers are expecting six women's teams and 10 men's teams. In addition to Michigan, teams are coming from Colorado, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York and other states.

The games begin at 8 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday in WMU's Student Recreation Center. Competition runs until 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. Games on Sunday will be the semi-finals and final rounds and will run until noon. Admission is free. Area residents are invited to watch the fast-paced action or become part of the event by volunteering.

Goalball is similar to hockey or soccer, but is played exclusively by visually impaired or blindfolded players. Teams of three athletes on each side of a volleyball-sized court launch a ball at speeds of more than 30 mph at the opposing side's goal. The athletes are blindfolded to put all players on an equal footing, and four bells encased in a basketball-sized ball help the athletes track its location. Blocking the ball involves a full body dive in front of its path.

As many as 70 to 80 volunteers are needed. Volunteers do not need prior goalball tournament experience and will be given a brief training session before their shift. Volunteers have their choice of three sessions: 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday or Sunday or 1:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday. Volunteers may work one, two or all three sessions.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Sherry Gordon, volunteer coordinator, at (269) 337-3276 or sdgordon78@sbcglobal.net, or Dr. Paul Ponchillia, tournament director and WMU professor of blindness and low vision studies, at (269) 278-7307.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

WMU News
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