Salmo athlete helps Canada to goalball gold

Salmo’s Haley Olinyk and her Team Canada teammates won gold last week during the World Junior Goalball Championship.

Haley Olinyk (right) and a teammate celebrate their victory at last week’s World Junior Goalball Championship.

Haley Olinyk (right) and a teammate celebrate their victory at last week’s World Junior Goalball Championship.

Salmo’s Haley Olinyk and her Team Canada teammates won gold last week in Colorado Springs, Colorado during the World Junior Goalball Championship.

Olinyk, who practices on the Nelson Goalball team, made it onto the BC team for the national competition in Brantford, Ont. this past Apriland was scouted there by  Team Canada to play at this year’s international event in Colorado.

The Canadian girls faced teams from US, Germany, China and Korea over several days to find themselves in the semifinals. A strong performance there secured a 10-2 win over second ranked-Germany and advancement into the gold medal round against No. 1 ranked US.

Very tight defence in the gold medal game kept scoring unusually  low and Canada found themselves trailing 1-0 at halftime. Canada rallied, however, in the second half to a nail-biting upset 4-3 victory and title of world champions for the next two years.

Goalball is a fast-paced Paralympic sport played by the blind and visually impaired on a roughly basketball-sized indoor court. With three members per team, a ball with bells inside is whipped toward the opposing team who, using only their hearing, try to locate the incoming ball, lay out across its path to block the shot. Once blocked, the ball is immediately thrown back at the opposite team to try to score.

Olinyk has been playing the sport for several years now and has competed with Kootenay team mate Jessica Rideout of Crawford Bay on the BC team at the junior national event several times.

At 14, she was also one of the youngest athletes competing in the senior national tournament (where they brought home bronze) against much older Paralympic athletes.

Olinyk aspires to compete in the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, and her weekly two hour practices from September to June might just get her there.