Former Brantford student ready to play ball in France

Former Brantford student ready to play ball in France

Whitney Bogart fell in love with goalball as a W. Ross Mcdonald student 20 years ago and rose to become a member of Canada’s national goalball team.

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She’s heading to Paris, France this fall for her final Paralympic Games and wants to grab a medal of any color.

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“Everyone wants the gold but I really want to be on the podium. I haven’t got a Paralympic medal yet.”

It’s not for a lack of trying.

Bogart has played in world championships, Parapan Am Games and three previous Paralympic Games.

Her team took gold at the International Blind Sports Federation world games in 2011 and she’s won bronze medals in several Parapan Am Games.

But she plans to retire after Paris.

“It’s the end of my career. I still feel fine after 20 years because if you put in all the training, you can do it,” Bogart said in between games at a weekend competition held at her old school.

Paralympic athlete Whitney Bogart returned to her W. Ross Mcdonald high school in Brantford on the weekend to compete for Ontario in the 2024 Provincial Goalball Tournament. Photo by SUSAN GAMBLE /Brantford Exhibitor

The mother of two says goalball can be a hard sport.

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Played by athletes with visual impairments, a ball with a slight jingle inside is forcefully bowled at the opposing team of three who tries to block the ball from entering an extra-wide net, based solely on what they hear.

Goalball is perfect for players with a variety of vision impairment or even those sighted players in recreational leagues since everyone wears a full eye-shade that evens the playing field.

It can be hard on the body: players spend much of the game on their knees, listening intently, then diving across the floor in an effort to block the ball and returning it with the hardest throws possible.

“I love the competition,” Bogart said.

“This will be my fourth Paralympic Games but there’s no change in the excitement. It’s a new team, new coaches and new atmosphere and very exciting to be on the court representing Canada.”

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Born with albinism, which affected her vision – just as her four siblings who also attended W. Ross Mcdonald School, Bogart loved sports and eventually channeled her energies into goalball, a game hugely encouraged at the school.

“We start them in elementary school learning the sport,” said coach Jen McMillan, who is also a teacher at the school.

McMillan coached Bogart and her siblings 20 years ago and loves to see such players remaining in the game through their lives.

“It’s a unique sport just for the blind. Some play goalball their whole lives, even in their 30s, 40s and 50s.”

McMillan said this weekend’s competitive and recreational tournament, drew about 130 players, coaches and volunteers and offered games for both beginners and elite players at the three-day provincial goalball tournament.

Bogart’s team, representing Ontario, was joined by those from Quebec, Nova Scotia, Alberta, Michigan and some local teams from the school and the Kitchener area.

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