Jen Armbruster competes in goalball at the 2011 Parapan American Games.
Goalball was introduced as a medal event at the 1976 Paralympic Games in Torontoafter its success as a demonstration event at the Heidelberg 1972 Paralympic Games. But the sport dates back to 1946 when it was created by Austrian Hanz Lorenzen and German Sett Reindle as a way to rehabilitate WWII veterans who had lost their vision. The sport is now played in 112 countries.
Men's and women's goalball teams have a roster of six at most international events but compete in teams of three. Unlike other team events that involve a ball, like wheelchair basketball, goalball is played only by visually impaired athletes. All players wear eye masks to equalize visual impairment among the athletes.
Because the sport is for the visually impaired, the ball makes noise when it's in motion so that the players can locate it audibly. For this reason, silence at events is vital. It is played on a court with tactile markings so that players can determine their location on the court and which direction that he/she is facing. Players take turns throwing the ball at each other's goal.
After the U.S. women's team won gold at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, Team USA looked to take the top spot again at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. However, Team USA finished last in the goalball competition, held Aug. 30-Sept. 7 in the Copper Box. The U.S. men did not qualify.
Both the U.S. men's and women's team will compete at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games based on their performances at the 2014 world championships in Finland. While the men finished third, the women avenged their losses in London by capturing the world title.
The U.S. national goalball teams and the day-to-day operations of the high performance program are overseen by the United States Association of Blind Athletes.
For more information on goalball, visit USABA.org.