OTTAWA – At 5 a.m. Monday morning Amy Burk sent an e-mail to her Canadian national women’s goalball team teammates.
It simply said: ‘’Qualified!!!!’’
The Canadian women’s goalball team is set to go to the Paralympic Games after China defeated South Korea 7-2 on Monday in a semifinal at the Asia-Pacific Championships being held in Chiba, Japan.
Goalball is a team sport designed specifically for athletes with a vision impairment.
In that tournament in Chiba, Canada needed China to win or finish second to host Japan to gain a berth for Tokyo 2020. China and Japan will meet in the final.
‘’We were pretty sure it was going to happen in Japan but in sport you can never be sure,’’ said Burk, a three-time Paralympian from Ottawa.
The Canadian women initially had an opportunity to qualify for the Games last year at the world championships but missed a berth by one spot, finishing fourth.
This past summer at the Parapan American Games in Lima, the Canadians needed to finish second behind the U.S. but wound up third with the U.S. first and Brazil taking the Paralympic spot in second. Brazil beat the Canadians 4-3 in double OT in the semifinals.
The European qualifier in October was another stress bomb for the team as it needed Israel to gain the Paralympic spot for Canada to stay in contention. Israel came through.
‘’Since Lima we’ve continued to prepare as if we are going, we know we can’t take our foot off the gas when there is still a chance,’’ said Burk. ‘’That loss against Brazil was a hard pill to swallow but we regrouped and realized our hopes weren’t over.’’
Canada has an impressive legacy in women’s goalball with Paralympic gold medals in 2000 and 2004 and the world title in 2006.
Burk feels this Canadian team wants to capitalize on this opportunity.
‘’We’re getting a second chance here,’’ said Burk. ‘’We don’t want to take this for granted. We believe we are a nation that should be at the Paralympics in goalball. We can play with the best and Lima was an eye opener and we hated that feeling to fall short.
‘’We’re all going to ensure we don’t feel that way again.”
Ten countries will compete in the women’s goalball tournament in Tokyo. The qualifying teams will be officially approved in February.