PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A paralympic-recognized sport played by athletes with visual impairments is holding a regional tournament in Washington in early February.
The United States Association of Blind Athletes Northwest Regional Goalball Tournament will welcome athletes from around the state and Canada to compete.
Goalball was created after World War II by blinded veterans, according to seven-time Paralympian and four-time goalball medalist Jen Armbruster. Players are blindfolded and have to roll a three-pound medicine ball, traveling around 30 to 45 miles per hour, across the opponent’s goal line.
Armbruster explained that because the athletes have to listen for the ball, spectators have to be quiet during gameplay, but said there’s still plenty of opportunity for fans to get involved.
“While the gameplay’s going on, people have to be pretty quiet, but there’s always stoppages whether it’s a goal score, or it’s a penalty shot, or balls thrown out of bounds, so there’s plenty of time for the spectators to get involved and be loud,” Armbruster said.
Detailing her journey to the sport, Armbruster explained that she grew up playing basketball as an army brat with plans to play in college and continued to play as she became legally blind until losing her vision as a teenager.
Armbruster said then, “someone found the last name, Armbruster, in the phonebook — which is pretty unique — asked me to try the sport of goalball. It had the word ‘ball’ in it, so I said, ‘What the heck,’ and my family and I are kind of hooked since then.”
Armbruster said she started a goalball team in Colorado and her parents also became goalball coaches.
The USABA Northwest Regional Goalball Tournament will be held on February 3 at the Washington State School for the Blind in the Kennedy Fitness Center starting at 6 p.m.
The games continue Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. followed by the championship game on Sunday morning.