Sport plays an integral role in the lives of many young Australians, but perhaps none more so than Jessica Clark, an inspirational sight-impaired Hornsby teenager who will this month represent Australia at the international Goalball Championships in Hungary.
A little known sport, goalball is a team game for athletes with a vision impairment, and was originally devised to help the rehabilitation of visually impaired WW2 veterans. The objective is to roll the ball into the opponent’s net while opposing players try to block the ball with their bodies. Bells inside the ball help players indicate the direction of the oncoming ball. Players must use the sound of the bell to judge the position of the ball during two 12-minute halves.
Goalball athlete Jessica, 18 and studying to be an occupational therapist at a Sydney university, was first introduced to the sport whilst on a school excursion with other vision impaired students to Epping Boys High.“I was 12 and I met this group of Paralympians who play the sport.
“I had a go and really enjoyed it and was soon hooked.”
Jessica’s talent was immediately recognized and she was asked to train with the Olympic team. Now she’s going to be competing at the International Youth Goalball Championship in Budapest this month.
“It’s like ten pin bowling but more powerful. It’s very strenuous – you have to dive across the floor – and get in shape with lots of training, but I love it.”
The game has had a profound effect on Jessica’s life – not least opening new doors for her. “I was never really good at playing sports at school, especially team games. But finding a sport I could actually do and excel at, was such a good experience and really cool.
“I’ve made a lot of friends and gained huge confidence. Playing with a team who completely understand what you’re going through has really changed things for me.”
For Jessica to turn a negative into a positive should be a lesson to all of us – that no matter how much the odds are stacked up against us, we have to keep moving forward. Jessica’s advice to any other up and coming athletes faced with the same adversity: “Just go for it.
“It’s important for any athlete to not let fear get in the way of your aspirations.”
This is a prime example of how sport has the power to change the world. Jessica will be competing at the internationals later this month and the Monthly Chronicle wishes her the very best of luck.
_____________________________________________________________________Brock Lyon is a Year 12 student keen to become a sports journalist. This is his second article for the Monthly Chronicle.