Goalball has been a big part of Trent Farebrother life since he was in his mid-teens.
The Red Deer man was first introduced to the sport, which is designed for athletes with a visual impairment, when he was 16 years old. He played in his first competition in 1977.
“When I first started playing, it was the only team sport they had for (people who are) visually impaired,” Farebrother said Saturday.
“Nowadays there are a few others – there’s soccer and hockey. But at the time there weren’t any others. That’s what got me into it.”
Goalball features two teams of three, attempting to throw a ball that has bells embedded in it into the opponent’s goal.
As a player, Farebrother competed in the 1988 and 1992 Paralympics in Seoul, South Korea, and Barcelona, Spain, and also was part of a team that finished third at the World Cup of Goalball in 1990 in Calgary. He played up until 2009 and then became a coach.
“The last few years I played, we had a really great coach who sort of transitioned a few of us into more of a strategist type of role, so it was a smooth transition. It is harder to coach than play, I’ll tell you that,” said Farebrother, who is the head coach of both the provincial and national women’s goalball teams.
The national women’s team is gearing up for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo later this month. Farebrother said the team has its eyes set on winning a medal.
“That’s been our goal for the longest time,” he said.
The Canadian women most recently captured a bronze medal at the Lima 2019 Parapan Am Games. They finished fourth at the 2018 world championships and earned a sixth-place result at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
The team was heading to Sapporo, Japan, on Monday for a 10-day training camp. Then the coaches and players will head to Tokyo to play their first game Aug. 25.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created some complications for the team, he added.
“The last year and a half has been challenging, but I will say the only positive thing that’s come out of it is it’s given our team another year (of preparation),” he said.
“We’ve got a young team – some veterans and some new players. That extra year allowed us to develop and work on different activities. I think we’re better prepared now than we would’ve been last year.”
Two Albertans are on the six-person Canadian women’s team – Edmonton’s Brieann Baldock and Calgary’s Meghan Mahon, who is originally from Timmins, Ont.