COLUMBUS (WCMH)– The excitement is still alive in Tokyo as the Paralympic Games begin on Aug. 24.
Central Ohio athlete Mindy Cook will be making her debut at the Paralympic Games for Team USA in goalball.
“We always say it’s the coolest sport that you have never heard of,” said Cook with a chuckle.
Cook said the sport of goalball started after World War II as a rehabilitation tool for blind veterans. Now, she says goalball has evolved into a competitive, high-level sport for visually impaired athletes.
“The objective of the game is to throw the ball from one side of the court to the other, and score on your opponents’ net, so it’s a little bit reverse dodgeball,” said Cook.
Before a friend invited her to try goalball at the Ohio State School for the Blind, Cook said she had never played any adaptive sports.
“I was born with a condition called aniridia and it is a genetic condition in which the iris does not develop in the eye,” Cook explained.
“At first I was a little intimidated by it because I saw these high-level athletes throwing this 3-pound ball around and it looked like it hurt,” she added.
Although she was intimidated at first, she started to play and found a passion for the sport when competing in her first goalball tournament in Michigan in 2017.
“That is where I fell in love with the sport,” said Cook.
Cook said the taped lines on the goalball court have string underneath for court orientation, the ball has bells inside, and all athletes wear shades to even the playing field for the visually impaired.
“With goalball, I was able to not worry about my vision, I was able to be an athlete and I found it really empowering and I found a lot of confidence in that,” she added.
As a rookie, Cook joins 5 veteran teammates on the women’s goalball team who will represent the United States at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
“I had this dream to make the Tokyo Olympics, but I wrote it down, and I kept that as motivation, and I didn’t tell anyone, I just kept it as a dream and a little fire inside me to push a little harder.”
As her dream becomes a reality, Cook feels confident her team is ready to compete on the world’s largest stage.
“It’s an incredible feeling and so surreal.”
To learn where to watch Cook compete in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, visit: https://www.nbcolympics.com/news/how-watch-and-stream-tokyo-paralympic-games-nbc