Canadian women’s goalball team chases first Paralympic medal since 2004

Canadian Paralympic Committee

August 09, 2021

Squad finished fourth at last world championships


The Canadian women’s goalball team was fourth at the last world championships in 2018 and would love nothing more than to climb at least one spot at the Paralympic Games later this month in Tokyo.

Canada was dominant in women’s goalball 20 years ago, with gold medal performances in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004. They have not won a medal since then though, finishing fifth in both 2008 and 2012 and sixth in Rio five years ago.

There are three returnees from Rio as well as three newcomers on the goalball squad, a sport for athletes with a visual impairment. 

Team captain Amy Burk of Charlottetown heads to her fourth Games, Whitney Bogart of Marathon, Ont. her third and Megan Mahon of Timmins, Ont. her second. The Paralympic rookies are Brieann Baldock of Edmonton, Emma Reinke of St. Thomas, Ont. and Maryam Salehizadeh of Vancouver.

Canada missed qualifying for the Paralympics by one spot at the 2018 worlds and 2019 Parapan American Games where Canada took bronze. All but Baldock were part of that team in Lima. The team then locked its Paralympic berth in December 2019 when no unqualified nation could crack the top-two at the Asia-Pacific Championships.

The Canadian women enter the Games ranked sixth in the world and are in a pool with world number-two China, Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) ranked seventh, Israel (#8), and Australia #10.

Canada opens against RPC on August 25 followed by games against Israel on August 26, Australia August 28 and China August 30. The quarterfinals are September 1, followed by the semis on September 2 and medal matches September 3.

The other pool is comprised of number-one and defending champions Turkey, Brazil (#3), USA (#4), Japan (#5) and African qualifier Egypt (#29). 

Burk was the top scorer at the Parapan Am Games in 2019 with 23 goals, just a year after giving birth to her second son. Like many athletes, she spent part of the pandemic training in a home gym in her basement.

The team reunited at a training camp in Ottawa this spring and are heading to Sapporo for their final preparations ahead of the Games. 

“Our team has the skills to get it done, we have the drive to get it done, it’s just going to come down to not looking ahead and really just focusing on the game at hand and not worrying about what other teams are doing,” Burk recently told Saltwire. 

Mahon says she hopes to capitalize on the experience she’s gained since playing in Rio.

“We’re just so excited to be going in and getting that opening game under our belt,’’ Mahon told the Timmins Daily Press. Mahon works full-time as a child and youth worker with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

Salehizadeh grew up in Iran and was one of the top goalball players in Asia, but it was not until she left her homeland for Canada in 2016 that she was able to work towards her Paralympic dream. 

“We are going to try our best,” she said. “Everyone is excited, and we want to come home with a medal.”

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