Exploration: Paralympic Torball in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Associate producer Rebecca Nolan reports from Fort Wayne, , where she learns about Goalball – a sport specially developed for blind athletes. Lisa Czechowski has always been athletic. Although she found it difficult to see a child herself, she never stopped playing soccer or with her brothers. She never thought she had any limitations.

Czechowski has a condition called nystagmus, which is an involuntary repetitive movement of the eyes. She has had it all her life and has influenced her vision and depth perception. She also has cone-and-stick dystrophy, which makes her over-sensitive to light and unable to see colors.

Czechowski grew up visually impaired and never thought that she could compete in team . But that changed when she got into high school and excelled in athletics. An adaptive PE teacher took note of this and introduced her to goalball. Lisa was addicted.

Czechowski has been involved with goalball since 1995. She took part in the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta as a deputy for the US women’s goalball team. Since then, she has participated in five Paralympics and won four medals.

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Goalball was invented in 1946 by the Austrian Hanz Lorenzen and the German Sepp Reindle to rehabilitate veterans who had lost their sight in World War II. Goalball became more and more popular across Europe in the 50s and 60s and was first brought to the world stage in 1972 at the Paralympics in the summer. It was officially added to the Paralympic Games as a medal-winning sport in 1976.

Goalball is played indoors, usually on a modified volleyball field. Each team consists of three players whose goal is to roll a three-pound ball into their opponent’s net. The ball is obstructed with bells so that players can follow it as it moves across the field of play.

Because goalball is played by athletes with different visual abilities, all players must wear specially designed blindfolds. Players use hand-ear coordination and team communication to play. Learn more about the rules and history of goal ball on the International Blind Sports Federation website.

Czechowski and her teammates are part of a residential program at Turnstone, an innovative center for children and adults with disabilities. Turnstone has served the Fort Wayne, Indiana community since 1943.

Originally founded as a bedside education organization for children with physical disabilities, Turnstone has grown and adapted to serve adults and children of all skill levels. Today, Turnstone is home to one of the few torball courts that is designated as a Paralympic training site.

In 2019, Fort Wayne and Turnstone won the bid to host the Paralympic qualification for judo and goalball. This is the first time that such qualifiers have been played in the USA.

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