Glenmore Park athlete Mikayla Kumar has booked a berth in this month’s Allschools NSW goalball team competing at the 2017 Pacific School Games next month.
The selection has added to an impressive list of credits in the Paralympic sport since the 15-year-old took to the court four years ago, with a bronze 2015 Pacific School Games medal, silver at three NSW State Championships, and gold from the junior team she captained at last month’s Australian Goalball Championships held in Melbourne, among her achievements.
“I would like to go to the Paralympics maybe in 2024. That’s our target,” the Year 9 Glenmore Park student said.
“I am kind of nervous [about the upcoming competition] but I get nervous before every competition. I think it helps, it gets the adrenaline going.”
The sport of goalball is not for the fainthearted. Three players – a centre and two wings – use all their strength to roll a 1.25kg ball containing a bell at the opposing side’s three players, who must defend their goal by blocking the ball with their bodies.
Exclusively for athletes with a visual impairment, each player wears a blackout mask to ensure equality of play and the stadium in which the game is played is unique in that complete silence is needed so players can react instantly to the ball.
Players can orientate themselves on the 18m by 9m court by counting steps or feeling for the marking tape, and Kumar said game plans are based on the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition and training uses visualisation.
“It’s very tough mentally as well as physically,” the centre said. “You have to visualise where everything and everyone is.
“A lot of the time we do visualisation in training. We will be blindfolded and the coach will drop the ball at the other end of the court, and we have 30 seconds to run to the other end, find the ball and take it back to the middle of the court.”
Named Penrith Valley Sports Foundation’s junior sports star for October, Kumar is extremely dedicated to the sport and trains travels to Strathfield to train for between two to four hours on the court.
Born with coloboma of the iris and retina, Kumar has just five per cent vision in one eye but has never let it stop her from achieving her goals – and this competition won’t be any different.
“Having a disability doesn’t stop you achieving what you want,” she said. “You might not be able to do everything, but you find something that you can do really well.”