By Greg French
Alana Tiller is thrilled to be representing South Australia in the Pacific School Games in her home state from December 3 to 9.
The 13-year-old was born visually impaired, meaning she has trouble seeing. She has been selected in the under-15s for goalball, a sport designed for blind athletes, which she has been playing since she was eight.
“I have tried a few other sports, but goalball and athletics are my favourites,” she says.
“Because you can’t see what’s going on, you need to have a lot of communication between teammates.
“The key to goalball is teamwork and listening hard so you can tell when and from where the ball is coming.”
Goalball involves teams of three trying to get a ball, which has bells in it, into the opposition’s goal. Teams take it in turns to throw or roll the ball. Players remain in their goal in attack and defence and must use the sound of the bell to judge the position and movement of the ball. Every player wears a blindfold so everyone competes equally.
In Australia people with full sight can play up to the national level, but in international competition players must have a visual impairment to be eligible.
Hundreds on show
More than 4,000 students aged 10 to 19 from at least 10 countries and including every Australian state and territory will compete in 11 sports in the 10th Pacific School Games.
Sports include basketball, diving, football, goalball, golf, hockey, netball, softball, swimming, touch football and athletics.
Australian students qualify through their state or territory school sports programs, and international students through their national sporting bodies.
The countries taking part this year include China, New Zealand, Pakistan, India, Fiji, Macau, Singapore, New Caledonia and the Philippines.
The head of School Sport Australia, Graeme Jennings, says the games give boys and girls a chance to compete in high-level sport but also learn about different cultures.
Diving into games
Adelaide brothers Thomas and Zack Will are looking forward to representing their state in diving.
Thomas, 16, and Zack, 14, have been diving for only two years.
“I have done alright in diving, considering my age and the short time I have been doing it,” says Thomas, who’ll compete in the 16-18 years.
“I have won a few competitions but nothing major. But I really love it.
“I’m training three nights a week and I’m hoping to compete at the national level in the future.”
Zack is pleased with his progress: “I am getting quite good and it is a lot of fun. I’m also training three nights a week and hope to do well in the games.”