The Canadian women’s goalball team is putting their opponents on notice at the 2023 Parapan Am Games in Santiago, Chile — they are here, they are loud and they are proud.
To make sure their presence is felt, the Canadian team has decided to make some serious noise. And it’s quite something.
To begin each game and after every timeout or stoppage, longtime national team member Amy Burk lets out a scream.
“Team,” she yells.
“Canada,” the rest of the team responds.
It’s jarring if you’re hearing it for the first time.
GOAL CANADA! <br><br>Back and forth action and then Amy Burk zips home a goal for the Canadians. <br><br>It’s 1-0 Canada leading Peru in this women’s goalball game. <a href=”https://t.co/7YEvovhaFM”>pic.twitter.com/7YEvovhaFM</a>
Goalball is played in an eerily quiet venue. That’s because the athletes have visual impairments. The teams of three have to track a ball thrown by their opponents that has bells inside of it and keep it from going into their net.
The Canadian opponents definitely feel the weight of the passion in their voices.
“It started at our world championships last year. We wanted to change our whole team identity and show everyone we are Team Canada and we are here for a fight,” Burk said.
“I think we threw a lot of nations off in Portugal last year. It just wasn’t what people expected. We’re polite, quiet Canadians but now we’re just super loud and we’re proud of it. We’re proud to be Canadian and proud to be here.”
When watching goalball for the first time there’s a wave of amazement, fascination and interest that washes over you. It’s a sport centered around ear-hand coordination and spatial awareness.
“When you try to explain it people are kind of like, huh? And then they see it and it’s ‘ah, okay.’ It feels good to know people like our sport and are wanting to watch us,” Whitney Bogart, a member of the team, said.
“It’s always an honour to wear the maple leaf.”
The Canadians roared their way to victory on Monday afternoon in Santiago, dispatching Peru by a score of 11-1. It’s the team’s first win of the event after dropping their opening game to the Americans.
Emma Reinke led the team in scoring with seven of the 11 goals.
“My throwing was working for me today. My shoulder felt good and I kept chucking,” Reinke said.
It’s a veteran Canadian squad that’s been together since the Tokyo Paralympics. Canada finished fourth at the world championships last December.
Burk was the second-leading scorer at the event and named MVP.
She first appeared for Canada at an international event in 2005 and has competed in three Paralympics.
Amy Burk is one of my favourite athletes to interview. She’s been part of Canada’s goalball team for years. Four Paralympics. <br><br>I asked her if this team can qualify for the Paralympics by winning this thing in Santiago. <br><br>The conviction she speaks with is admirable. <a href=”https://t.co/sSAgr6hQ0r”>pic.twitter.com/sSAgr6hQ0r</a>
Now she’s back for more and wants to get this team into Paris 2024. Should Canada win gold at the Parapan Am Games, they will book their ticket to the Paralympics.
“We have full trust in each other. We’re determined to get the job done and we’re committed. Those are our team values. We live that. And we are a family,” Burk said.
Reinke echoes Burk’s comments about how close they’ve become and that she believes they will be in Paris together.
“I love this team. I love the people on it. They have turned into my family. They are a great group of people,” she said.
“We’re going to go to Paris too. I have to speak it into existence. If we win, we’re going and that’s our plan. I have to be intentional and positive about it.”
The Canadians take on host Chile on Tuesday in their third game of the competition. They finished with a bronze in Lima at the Parapan Am Games in 2019.
- Brieann Baldock — Edmonton
- Whitney Bogart — Marathon, Ont.
- Amy Burk — Charlottetown
- Meghan Mahon — Timmins, Ont.
- Emma Reinke — St. Thomas, Ont.
- Maryam Salehizadeh — Vancouver