WMU News

Visually impaired athletes compete Saturday at WMU

Feb. 25, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- Visually impaired athletes from across the nation will descend on Kalamazoo Saturday, Feb. 26, to take part in the 17th Annual U.S. Association of Blind Athletes Midwest Regional Goalball Tournament.

In all, 15 teams from New York to California will take part in the tournament. Teams also will come from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Indiana, Arizona and from across Michigan to compete in the fast-paced game played by visually impaired or blindfolded players.

The competition gets underway at 8 a.m. in three gymnasiums at the Student Recreation Center on the WMU campus and will continue until about 8 p.m. The public is invited and there is no admission charge.

Goalball has all the action of other sports and is similar to hockey or soccer. It was started in Eastern Europe by blind veterans after World War II and brought to the United States in the 1970s.

Playing on a surface the size of a volleyball court, three players from each team are positioned at opposite ends of the court. They maintain their positions by monitoring raised cord boundaries on the playing surface.

Competitors use a 3.5-pound ball that contains a bell so players can hear it. Using their senses of touch and hearing, players catch, pass and attempt to score by rolling the ball across the goal line, which spans the entire width of the baseline. The game is fierce and aggressive, with the ball traveling at speeds of more than 40 mph.

People who attend the tournament will see some of the nation's best goalball players in action.

The event is sponsored by the WMU Department of Blind Rehabilitation and the Michigan Blind Athletic Association.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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